A pacemaker is used to make your heart beat faster when it needs to. Your heart might have been beating too slowly at times and you might have noticed dizziness or a blackout. A pacemaker, when in place, can tell when your heart is slowing down and so "kick in" to protect you from a blackout.
There are 2 forms of pacemaker, one is temporary, the other permanent. The first type can be in your heart for a few days, the second type for many years. In each case, there is a battery and a long wire. The wire can be fed into your heart through a vein below the collarbone on either side. This is done using a local anaesthetic through a cut about 2 or 3 inches long. The battery (matchbox size) can then be fitted on to the wire and a pouch made under the skin. The wound will heal up over a few days. Usually no antibiotics are needed and you will spend about 2 or 3 days in hospital after a permanent pacemaker is inserted.
From time to time the battery will need to be checked - about every 6 months to 1 year. In this way, it is possible to check how much energy is left in the batterry. A new one can be put in when you need it. Usually it takes about 8 years before the power is used up, sometimes much longer.
Apart from the two main types of pacemaker there are many types of permanent pacemaker. Some are made to make your heart beat at different rates depending on what you are doing. These "smart" ones can speed up the heart when, for example, you run for a bus but will slow down again when you are at rest. This is more like what your heart normally does. If you have any questions ask your doctor. Some patients are worried by metal detectors and security checks at airports. Tell the staff there that you have a pacemaker. Similarly if you are having an operation, a CAT scan, or an MRI scan, tell your doctor beforehand.