One treatment for bradycardia is a pacing system to monitor your heartbeat. The system includes a pacemaker -a small pulse generator with a microcircuit computer and a special battery- and one or more thin, insulated wires called leads. When it detects that the heart is not beating normally, the pacemaker will send a small electrical signal through the lead to make the heart beat at the appropriate rate.

There are three types of pacemakers:


Single chamber

A single lead placed in one chamber of the heart

Dual chamber

Two leads:one in the right atrium, and one in the right ventricle

Triple chamber

Three leads: one in the right atrium, one in the right ventricle, and one in the left ventricle

MR conditional

Cardiac pacemakers have historically been considered a contraindication (a reason to withhold medical treatment due to potential harm to the patient) for Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). In 2011, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved pacemaker technology that can be used safely during MRI. Today there are pacemakers available that are MR conditional.

This new technology allows pacemaker patients to safely have an MRI exam under certain conditions if they need one in the future.

Automated Heart Rate Adjustment Sensors

Your doctor can program your pacemaker to automatically increase your heart rate, based on what your body needs for various activities. The pacemaker will make these rate adjustments, using one of the following sensors:

Motion Sensor (Accelerometer) – This sensor detects changes in motion (similar to smart phones rotating the image) and increases heart rate when an activity results in physical movement.

Breathing Rate Sensor (Minute Ventilation) – This sensor detects changes in breathing, and once customized for patients, it will increase heart rate when breathing patterns vary.

Biological Demand Sensor (Closed Loop Stimulation) – CLS is a unique sensor that reacts to physiologic demand, whether it is caused by acute mental stress or physical movement. This sensor is very successful at mimicking a healthy heart. It increases patients’ ability to perform low energy consuming daily activities, compared to an accelerometer.


What happens in pacemaker surgery?

The surgery to implant a pacemaker may require an overnight stay, but patients usually go home within 24 hours of the procedure. The procedure is performed under local anesthesia. 

  1. A small 2-inch long incision will be made by your collarbone near the shoulder. The leads will be guided into the vein leading to the heart.
  2. The doctor will connect the lead(s) to the pacemaker and insert it under your skin.
  3. The incision will be closed and the pacemaker will be tested to make sure it is working properly.

Living With

icon_aftercareAfter pacemaker surgery, you might experience redness, swelling, or soreness at the site. Limit movement of your arm and avoid heavy lifting so you don’t disturb the implantation site. Try to avoid any quick or sudden movements that might dislodge the leads.


icon_questionsEveryone has questions. We’ve got answers to the ones pacemaker patients ask most.

This list of questions and answers can help you prepare for your next doctor’s consultation and possibly ease unnecessary fears.

Choosing Your Pacemaker

Not all pacemakers are alike. Get our educational eguide, Choosing Your Pacemaker, and learn what functions are key to choosing the best device for your lifestyle.



Get our educational eguide, Understanding Abnormal Heart Rhythms, and learn about the basic heart functions and types of arrhythmia.