Sentara Martha Jefferson Monday: What is the Difference between a Pacemaker and Defibrillator?

Pacemakers and defibrillators Pacemakers and defibrillators

Our focus this week is on devices that physicians can use to help keep your heart in check. We spoke with Dr. Adam Goldberg about the difference between pacemakers and defibrillators.

Pacemakers and defibrillators are two types of devices that are used to control the rate at which a heart beats.

“A pacemaker is an implanted device that has, generally speaking, a battery, or a generator, that is then connected to a wire or multiple wires that go through a vein into the heart and pace the heart,” said Dr. Adam Goldberg, an electrophysiologist at Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital.

While a pacemaker is a device that helps to speed up slow heart rates, a defibrillator works to slow down hearts that beat too fast.

“A defibrillator has all the features that a pacemaker has, but more importantly it has the ability to detect and treat fast heart rhythms,” noted Dr. Goldberg. “So if someone’s heart was to go out of rhythm in a potentially fatal fast rhythm it would charge up and shock them to be able to restore normal rhythm.”

Dr. Goldberg says that having either of the devices implanted involves a one-to-two-hour procedure and a one-night stay in the hospital. After that, patients can typically get back to their normal routine.

“Generally speaking, people don’t know on a day-to-day basis that they have a device in place,” said Dr. Goldberg. “They might feel the bulge that is present there, but otherwise they can go about doing almost all of their own activities.”

The devices are monitored by hospital staff on an ongoing basis to ensure everything is working properly.

“They will be monitored both here and at home actually with a remote monitor that will transmit data to us through your phone line,” said Dr. Goldberg. 

The goal is to always make sure patient's hearts keep beating right on time.

For more information on this topic, please call 1-800-SENTARA. If you have a question about your health you’d like us to answer, email healthquestions@nbc29.com

Sentara Martha Jefferson Monday

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