For some patients living with congestive heart failure, a special pacemaker may improve quality of life.
“One problem with heart failure is that the lower chambers of the heart, the ventricles, don’t pump synchronously, or in rhythm which prevents the body from getting the amount of blood it needs,” explained Jeff Hsing, MD, an electrophysiologist with Samaritan Heart Center. “When this happens, people sometimes feel weak, fatigued and short of breath for everyday activities. For some, a cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT) pacemaker can change that.”
How Does a Pacemaker Work?
Once surgically implanted into the body, the pacemaker sends out electrical impulses to the heart muscle helping to synchronize the two lower heart chambers, so they pump blood more efficiently.
“We’ve found that a CRT pacemaker can improve people’s quality of life,” said Dr. Hsing.
CRT pacemakers help a person’s heart pump blood better, which can allow them to do activities easier, and can decrease the work of the heart muscle, which can help them live longer.
Who Should Get a Pacemaker?
Not everyone is a candidate for the procedure, however.
“Whether a pacemaker will help a patient depends on a number of factors such as the quantity of blood their ventricle pumps, how bad their symptoms are, and whether their heart’s electrical system is dyssynchronous, meaning not beating in rhythm, based on their electrocardiogram,” Dr. Hsing said.
Implanting a CRT pacemaker requires minor surgery. The patient is usually sedated but awake and is discharged from the hospital the same day.
Once implanted, the CRT pacemaker works with the heart to regulate pumping.
“The pacemaker sits in the upper chest and connects to three thin wires that go into different chambers of the heart. The pacemaker sends a painless electrical signal through these wires into the heart muscle to synchronize the two chambers to more efficiently pump blood,” Dr. Hsing explained.
While cardiac synchronization therapy can positively impact a person’s heart efficiency and energy level, it does not cure heart failure, noted Dr. Hsing.
“A person will still have heart failure, which is a progressive disease, but once medication has done all it can, a CRT pacemaker is the next step to allow patients to live longer with better quality of life,” Dr. Hsing said.