An artificial pacemaker is a small device placed in the body and connected to the heart with wires (leads). It sends electrical signals to the heart to take control of the heartbeat in the event it slows significantly. Sometimes a pacemaker may be used to control a fast heartbeat. The insertion of a pacemaker requires minor surgery.
An implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) is a small device similar to a pacemaker. It is placed in the body and connected to the heart with leads. If the heartbeat is irregular, the ICD sends one or more brief shocks to correct it. If the heartbeat is too slow, the ICD keeps the heart beating at a more normal rate. The insertion of an ICD requires minor surgery.
The heart has a natural pacemaker. When the natural pacemaker doesn't work as it should, the heartbeat may be too fast, too slow, or irregular (arrhythmia). Your child may need a pacemaker or ICD for some types of arrhythmias. This is especially true for arrhythmias that cause severe symptoms.
An artificial pacemaker keeps the heartbeat regular. An ICD corrects sudden irregular heart rhythms that may be life threatening. It also keeps the heartbeat regular.
The complications of having either device put in the body may occur with any surgery. They include:
And with an ICD, unnecessary shocks may actually cause arrhythmias or heart damage.
The wires attaching the devices to the heart are permanent. But in some cases, the leads may need to be removed. This might be for infection or if the tissue is penetrated. This can be very high risk.
What you do depends on your child's age. If your child is old enough, explain what will happen in a way that he or she can understand. You might ask the cardiologist or nurse to help explain the procedure to your child, too.
Make sure your child follows all instructions about eating, drinking, and taking medicines before the device insertion. If your child becomes sick before the procedure, call the provider's office.
Pacemaker/ICD insertion is done in the hospital. This is either in a heart lab or an operating room.
Before the procedure, your child will get medicine (sedative) to relax him or her. And he or she will likely be given medicine to sleep (general anesthesia) once in the lab or operating room.
The devices have 2 main parts. They are the wires (leads) and the generator.
While still in the lab or operating room, the provider will check it to make sure the device is working correctly.
After the pacemaker or ICD is inserted, your child will be watched closely for a few hours. He or she may be sleepy for several hours. Some children go home the same day. Some stay in the hospital overnight. Before you take your child home you will get information about:
Before you agree to the test or the procedure for your child make sure you know: