Pacemakers and defibrillators

Regulating your heartbeat with a pacemaker or defibrillator

A pacemaker can speed up your heart if it goes too slow while a defibrillator can correct a fast, life-threatening rhythm.

About

A pacemaker or defibrillator can regulate your heartbeat if you have a condition that makes your heart beat too slow or too fast. If you have heart failure, it can improve the pumping of your heart. They are small electrical devices implanted just below your collarbone, usually on the left side.

Need to know

  • What happens icon plus

    The procedure usually takes one to two hours. You’ll be given local anaesthetic to numb your upper chest and sedation to make you sleepy. A pacemaker or defibrillator is much smaller than a matchbox and works like a generator. It’s placed under your skin, below your collarbone and usually on the left side of your chest. The pacemaker or defibrillator is attached to a wire (or wires), which is passed into a vein and guided into your heart to regulate your heartbeat.
  • How to prepare icon plus

    Your consultant will tell you how to prepare. It’s important to let us know if you’re taking any medication as you may need to stop taking it before your test or procedure. You’ll be asked to stop eating and drinking a few hours beforehand. Like all tests and procedures, there may be some risks and side effects involved. Your consultant will explain these to you and answer any questions you have.
  • Afterwards icon plus

    You may need to stay in hospital overnight. Please arrange for someone to travel home with you. You should rest for a week after the procedure. You can’t drive for a week after having a pacemaker fitted, and you can't drive for one to six months after having a defibrillator fitted. You must inform the DVLA if you have a pacemaker or defibrillator. Your consultant will discuss the procedure with you, and let you know when you can get back to your usual routine and activities. They’ll also give you advice on medication, exercise, travel, diet and alcohol.

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This content is intended for general information only and does not replace the need for personal advice from a qualified health professional.
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