How does a pacemaker work?

Pacemakers are used to treat bradycardia, or slow heartbeat. Pacemakers prevent slow heart beat by sending impulses to keep the heart beating at the desired rate for the person.

Traditionally the pulse generator of the pacemaker is implanted through a surgical incision into a pocket in the chest region. This pulse generator has all of the electronics and the battery. The generator is then connected to the heart through wires called leads, which are threaded through a vein and placed inside the heart. The leads sense the electrical signals of the heart and also give electrical impulses from the pulse generator to the heart to keep the heartbeat going.

Trinity Health is a Catholic health care organization that acts in accordance with the Catholic tradition and does not condone or support all practices covered in this site. In case of emergency call 911. This site is educational and not a substitute for professional medical advice, always seek the advice of a qualified health care provider.

Dr. Ja-Hong Kim, MD

A bladder pacemaker is a minimally invasive treatment option for people who have failed medical therapy for overactive bladder and urge incontinence. Under local anesthesia, doctors place a small electrode in your lower spine near the nerves that control your bladder. No one knows exactly how it works, but the theory behind it is that by modulating the response and the communication between the bladder and the brain, by giving these nerves an electrical shock, doctors can get them to respond in a different way. They then can control the bladder from having uncontrolled spasms. Once your doctor determines that this procedure helps you, he or she places an actual device—a pacemaker that’s made by the same company that makes pacemakers for your heart—right above your buttocks.

A pacemaker is a small device that is used to regulate your heart rhythm. The pacemaker system, which consists of a battery pack (pulse generator) and either one of two wires (leads), is surgically implanted under the skin in your chest, just beneath your collarbone. The pacemaker continuously monitors (senses) your heart's natural rhythm and will stimulate the heart to beat (paces) when it senses that your own heart rhythm is too slow. It will stimulate your heart to beat in a way that mimics your heart's own electrical beat. The electrical signal that is sent from the pacemaker is strong enough to stimulate the heart to beat, but not strong enough for you to feel.

A pacemaker system consists of a battery, a computerized generator, and wires with sensors called electrodes on one end. The battery powers the generator, and both are surrounded by a thin metal box. The wires connect the generator to the heart.

A pacemaker monitors and helps control your heartbeat. The electrodes detect your heart's electrical activity and send data through the wires to the computer in the generator.
If your heart rhythm is abnormal, the computer will direct the generator to send electrical pulses to your heart. The pulses then travel through the wires to reach your heart.
Newer pacemakers also can monitor your blood temperature, breathing, and other factors and adjust your heart rate to changes in your activity.

The pacemaker's computer also records your heart's electrical activity and heart rhythm. Your doctor will use these recordings to adjust your pacemaker so it works better for you.

This answer from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute has been reviewed and/or edited by Dr. William D. Knopf.

Pacemakers are relatively simple devices that remind the heart to keep beating regularly.

A pacemaker is used to regulate someone's heart rhythm when their heart rate is too slow. Pacemakers can also be heart rhythm monitors.

Continue Learning about Pacemaker

Can I eat before receiving a pacemaker?
Texas Cardiac Arrhythmia InstituteTexas Cardiac Arrhythmia Institute
You may eat a normal meal the evening before the procedure. Do not eat or drink anything after m...
More Answers
Can I use a cell phone or microwave oven if I have a pacemaker?
Brigham and Women's HospitalBrigham and Women's Hospital
It is possible that a cellular phone might interfere with the normal functioning of your pacemak...
More Answers
How Do Wireless Devices Help Doctors and Patients?
How Do Wireless Devices Help Doctors and Patients?
What Is Wireless Health?
What Is Wireless Health?

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.