A pacemaker is a small device that is placed underneath the skin in your chest to help control your heartbeat. It's used to make your heart beat more regularly if you have an irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia), particularly a slow one. Inserting a pacemaker into your chest requires a surgical procedure.

Pacemakers can be implanted temporarily to treat a slow heartbeat after surgery or a heart attack. In other cases, they can be implanted permanently to correct a slow or irregular heartbeat or to help treat heart failure.

Your heart's electrical system controls your heartbeat, beginning in the group of cells at the top of the heart and spreading to the bottom, causing it to contract and pump blood. Heart muscle damage from a heart attack, ageing, heart muscle damage from a heart attack, certain medications and some genetic defects can cause an abnormal heart rhythm.

Inserting a pacemaker should improve symptoms caused by a slow heartbeat, such as lightheadedness, fatigue, and fainting.

Pacemaker procedure

Dr Ntuli performs the pacemaker insertion procedure in a specialised lab called a Cath Lab. For pacemaker insertion, Dr Ntuli makes a small incision in the chest, and a lead or leads is passed into the heart, using a vein as guidance. The lead(s) are inserted into the heart, using x-ray imaging to see the heart so they can be put in the correct position. The leads are connected to the pacemaker, and the pacemaker is inserted into the incision and implanted underneath the skin. The wound is then sealed using dissolvable stitches.

Aftercare for pacemakers

Dr Ntuli will check your pacemaker every three to six months. If you gain weight, your legs or ankles get puffy, or you get dizzy or faint, please inform Dr Ntuli so he can assess your symptoms.

Your pacemaker's battery should last five to 15 years. When the battery dies, you will need surgery to replace it. The procedure to replace your pacemaker's battery is often faster and requires less recovery time than the procedure to implant your pacemaker. Since most of today's pacemakers automatically adjust your heart rate to match your level of physical activity, they can allow you to continue a more active lifestyle.