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What is the size of a pacemaker?

A heart attack or normal ageing are two of the causes of a slow or irregular heartbeat. A small implantable device called a pacemaker helps to alleviate this problem by regulating the heart rate.

Size and Components of a Pacemaker

Pacemakers have shrunk from the 1930s, external, hand-cranked Hyman Pacemaker with its 4-inch handle and 1-foot base. By the end of the 20th century, an implanted model was the size of a pocket watch. Pacemakers in use consist of two parts: the pulse generator, a device containing the battery and electrical components, which regulate the heartbeat, and insulated wires called leads that connect to the device and transmit electrical signals to and from the heart.

Implanting the Pacemaker

Implanting a pacemaker does not require you to be unconscious. After numbing an area of skin near the collarbone with a local anesthetic, your doctor makes an incision and inserts one or two leads into your heart through blood vessels. Your doctor tests the system after connecting the leads to the device to make certain everything is functioning properly. He then implants the device under the skin near the collarbone or the stomach, according to BostonScientific.com.

How It Works

Your pacemaker monitors your heartbeat, increasing it if it becomes too slow or slowing your heart rate if it begins to beat too quickly. Pacemakers contain sensors, which detect breathing and body motion. When your body requires more blood and oxygen during exercise, for example, the pacemaker increases your heart rate. By automatically adjusting the heart rate commensurate with your level of activity, the pacemaker allows you to lead a more active life. Pacemaker batteries last about 5 to 10 years before requiring replacement.

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About the Author

Sara Tomm began writing in 1971. She holds certificates in the medical, physiological and nutritional principles and treatment modalities for eating disorders. As a weight-management consultant, Tomm authored educational materials relating to the medical, psychological, environmental and social aspects of eating disorders, nutrition and physical fitness. She studied at Columbia University, Henry George School of Social Science, Farmingdale State College and Suffolk Community College.