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Artificial pacemaker

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An artificial pacemaker.

Introduction

An artificial pacemaker is a small device that is surgically placed into a person's chest or abdomen to emulate the heart's natural pacemaker. The function of a pacemaker is to use electrical pulses to replicate the heart’s natural electrical signaling. Pacemakers can make a heart's rhythm speed up or slow down. They can also make sure that both of the heart's ventricles contract normally if the person suffers from atrial fibrillation, which is a heart rate that beats improperly, that affects the blood flow in the body.[1]

Function

A pacemaker in a person's body.

Pacemakers nowadays have various functions. The main function of the artificial pacemaker is to monitor the heart's natural electrical rhythm, because the heart's natural pacemaker has trouble doing it. Whenever the pacemaker recognizes that the heartbeat doesn't have a normal beat or isn't beating, it will send a pulse with a low voltage to the ventricle of the heart. The pacemaker's sensing of the beat will make sure to continue stimulating the heartbeat on a regular basis. When the heart beats slowly, the symptom is called bradycardia. When the heart beats too fast, the symptom is called tachycardia. Pacemakers also prevent dangerous heart fluttering for the person with a pacemaker, which is characterized by chaotic heartbeats. Newer pacemakers also have the technology to monitor and record the heart’s activity and rhythm so that doctors can know all of the information from the person over a long period of time.[1]

History

Wilson Greatbatch, the man who invented the pacemaker.

The man who invented the artificial pacemaker, although it was on accident, was Wilson Greatbatch. In the 1950's, Greatbatch was working as a medical researcher after he left the Navy. He was building an oscillator to record heart sounds when he accidentally pulled the wrong resistor out of a box. When he finished his device, it started to give off a rhythmic electrical pulse, almost like a heart. He then realized his invention could be used as a pacemaker. He spent two years making his device even better and was awarded a patent for world's first implantable pacemaker. Pacemakers at one point were huge, even comparable to a TV, and the pacemaker used to shock the person while they were using it. So when Wilson Greatbatch invented the implantable pacemaker, it was a huge deal. His first pacemaker was put into in a 77-year-old person who ended up lived 18 more months with the pacemaker. In 1985, his pacemaker was called one of the top ten greatest engineering achievements in the last 50 years by the National Society of Professional Engineers. As pacemakers slowly improved, Greatbatch was frustrated with battery technology and the limitations it showed. Eventually, he decided to leave inventing pacemakers and started making lithium batteries, which started making advances into becoming the artificial pacemaker's battery. His company, Greatbatch Inc., eventually started supplying 90% of the world's pacemaker batteries.[1]

Pacemaker Issues

A pacemaker with wires.

Now over the years, the pacemaker has made massive improvements for the medical world, but there has still been many issues with the artificial pacemaker. The battery life on the artificial pacemaker and the wires (can infect your body in some instances) are one of the main complaints. Once your pacemaker is surgically put into a person, the battery ,most likely, will last 5 to 15 years, which is average. When a pacemaker's battery wears out, the pacemaker's pulse generator is replaced. Now although they may need to be replaced eventually and the procedure to change your pacemaker's battery is often quicker and requires less recovery time than the first surgery. It's still an inconvenience for the person with pacemaker.[2]


Another issue with the pacemaker, is that everyday things that is used normally could now be an issue for a person with a pacemaker. Here is a short list of everyday things that could interject into a person with a pacemaker.

Anti-theft systems (also called electronic article surveillance): Interactions with those systems are unlikely to cause clinically significant symptoms in most people.

Metal detectors for security: Interaction with metal detectors could, but probably wont cause symptoms in most people.

MP3 player headphones: They usually have a magnetic substance and research has showed that placing the headphones too close to where the pacemaker causes interference.

Power-generating equipment, arc welding equipment and powerful magnets: They can be found in medical devices, heavy equipment or motors, etc..[3]

Video

Video of a pacemaker surgery.

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 , Unknown. What is a pacemaker? NIH.com. Web. Last Updated February 28, 2012.
  2. Mayo Clinic Staff. Results Mayo Clinic. Web. February 02, 2017 . Last accessed February 02, 2017
  3. Unknown AHA American Heart Association. Web. September, 2016. Last Reviewed September 2016