> Some of the latest devices have the capability of home monitoring
DID you know your heart is controlled by electricity? Amazingly, the contraction of heart muscle in all humans and animals are initiated by electrical impulses. The cells in the heart that create these impulses are known as pacemaker cells.
These impulses are then conducted to the rest of the heart by the electrical conduction system of the heart, much like electricity is conducted in your household wiring system. In some cases, when these pacemaker cells are damaged or if the conduction system of the heart is damaged, a device called an artificial pacemaker can be used to produce and conduct these impulses synthetically.
The first cardiac pacemaker was thought up back in 1889 and the first artificial pacemaker was implanted in a human in 1958, using a car battery as its power source!
The first artificial wearable pacemaker was also implanted the same year, in a patient, Arne Larsson, who eventually received 26 different devices in his lifetime, and even outlived the surgeon who did the procedure! He lived healthily and passed away from skin cancer at 86.
From the time pacemakers were invented, they have evolved in size from the large AC current operated devices below to current generation devices that can fit in the palm of your hand. The latest generation of devices is even as small as a 20 sen coin!
New cardiac devices are not only able to pace the heart, it can also defibrillate (shock) the heart when it goes into an unstable rhythm and resynchronises the heart in patients with heart failure.
In approximately 25-50% of patients with heart failure, the left and right sides of the heart do not contract simultaneously. In
these patients, by pacing both sides of the heart, the pacemaker can resynchronise the heart and therefore improve the quality of life and reduce mortality in a selected group of patients with heart failure.
The latest devices even have the capability of home monitoring – where the device can wirelessly send information to their doctor or technician and is monitored for events or interventions in real-time, and thus promptly attended to.
Many patients would benefit from a cardiac device. Patients who have too slow a heartbeat, those who have irregular or rapid heartbeats or those with heart failure may be a candidate for a cardiac device.
Signs and symptoms such as dizziness, fainting, palpitations (an abnormal awareness of your heart beat), chest discomfort or shortness of breath could be signs that you need a cardiac device and should prompt a visit to your physician.
This article is contributed by Dr Ng Jit Beng, a lecturer in Medicine at Penang Medical College (PMC) and Clinical Cardiologist at Penang Hospital.
Dr Ng Jit Beng.
Pacemaker smaller than a 20 sen coin.