We are so used to many medical achievements that we take their existence for granted: Artificial hip or knee joints, hearing aids or visual aids, as well as pacemakers, are normal for us today. Find out what a pacemaker is exactly and when it's used.
What is a pacemaker?
A pacemaker supports the heart to beat in its normal, that is, situation-adapted rhythm. A modern pacemaker is barely larger than a matchbox, consists of a Lithiumjididbatterie and sophisticated electronics and has a covering of titanium.
It weighs about seven grams (the equivalent of a heaped teaspoon of salt) and sends electrical impulses to the heart tissue via one or more thin electrodes anchored in the heart to support the heart's rhythm.
What is the heart rhythm?
The heart is made up of muscle tissue, which contracts one after the other in a certain order (contracted) and thus leads to a movement of the blood. Every regular contraction we normally feel as a heartbeat. The transmission can be felt on the wrist as a pulse. The contraction and heartbeat are usually controlled by a nerve point in the heart - the sinus node. From there, nerve fibers lead to all regions of the heart.
As soon as the sinus node gives off a nerve impulse, the nerve fibers lead to a contraction and relaxation of the various heart chambers, so that the heart can fulfill its pumping function. However, this pumping function can only be regulated if the nerves that influence the muscle tissue function and react to stresses such as climbing stairs or excitement.
Irregularities of the heartbeat
With advancing age, many people experience irregularities of the heartbeat. For example, if the sinus node gives too little impulses in the case of sick sinus syndrome, there is a decrease in the heart rate (bradycardia). But even if the impulse transmission in the nerves is disturbed - z. As by circulatory disorders or nerve damage - beats the heart irregularly or too rarely.
For the person affected, this may result in unpleasant heart stumbling or vertigo attacks, which in their most extreme form can lead to unconsciousness (Morgagni-Stokes attack). Often, however, it comes "only" to an increasingly lower resilience: every little effort is difficult, you are always flabby and quickly gets out of breath.
When is a pacemaker used?
A pacemaker is always needed when the regulation of one's own heart rhythm is disturbed, the affected person shows the above-mentioned symptoms or it can be expected that the irregularity of the heartbeat can lead to a life-threatening situation.
It must be clarified why exactly the heart rhythm is irregular: Does the sinus node no longer correct, at what point does not the transition to the nerve fibers or is there some other underlying disease (for example, a thyroid dysfunction) that affects the heartbeat?
Even drugs for high blood pressure or heart failure may be responsible for the arrhythmia. With the long-term ECG and various other test methods, the nerve fibers can be stimulated and their function can be checked. Once the cause is established, the appropriate pacemaker is selected.