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When it comes to heart conditions, advancements in medicine and technology today have made it possible to maintain your cardiovascular health better than before. A heart arrhythmia occurs when your heart skips a beat or beats out of rhythm — which is not always serious but has the potential to become severe. A pacemaker and defibrillator are two implantable medical devices that help with arrhythmia, keeping your heart functioning properly. 

Pacemakers help your heart maintain a normal rhythm using steady and low-energy electric shocks. Defibrillators, on the other hand, make use of a low or high-energy electric shock for the purpose of preventing or stopping a dangerous arrhythmia. But, apart from this, what is the difference between pacemakers vs. defibrillators? We will tell you in this article — carry on reading to learn more! 

What is a Pacemaker?

A pacemaker functions by sending steady and low-energy electric shocks to keep your heart beating normally. The speed used to send out the electric shocks to your heart is known as the pacing rate. A pacemaker, similar to ICD, has a sensor that tracks the rhythm of your heart, responding accordingly. So if the heart starts beating too slowly, the pacemaker will sense it and help the heart return to normal. 

Pacemakers are available in different types, and it depends on your condition which one you will be recommended. These include: 

  • Single-Lead: Consists of one lead placed in either the right atrium or the right ventricle of the heart. 
  • Double-Lead: Consists of two leads placed in both the right atrium and the right ventricle. 
  • Biventricular: Has three leads that connect to the right atrium, right ventricle, and left ventricle, which helps coordinate signals between both ventricles. It is also called a Cardiac Resynchronization Therapy (CRT) device.

What is a Defibrillator?

A defibrillator is a medical device that aids in restoring the normal heart rate by using electric shock. If one goes into a sudden cardiac arrest, defibrillators can prove to be quite useful and restore heart rate. They, too, are available in many types, such as: 

  • Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (ICD): a device surgically implanted inside your body.
  • Wearable Cardioverter Defibrillators (WCD): Worn as a vest under the clothes, with sensors that attach the skin to monitor the rhythm of your heart.
  • Automated External Defibrillators (AED): They are used in emergencies when someone is experiencing a cardiac arrest. 

When to Use a Pacemaker vs. Defibrillator

So, when exactly is it more suitable to use a pacemaker or a defibrillator? Although both help with arrhythmia, pacemakers, and defibrillators are required in different circumstances. 

When it comes to defibrillators, they are used to prevent severe life-threatening arrhythmias. Your doctor might suggest an ICD if you are at risk of cardiac arrest. Other than use, you may need an ICD for: 

  • History of a cardiac arrest 
  • Developed arrhythmia after suffering  a heart attack 
  • Structural problems with the heart or genetic conditions lead to arrhythmia
  • The heart’s electrical signaling pathways have problems 

Pacemakers, comparatively, are suitable for arrhythmia treatment when your heart has a slow heart rate or frequent pause. Hence, you may need a pacemaker when: 

  • Specific structural problems arise in the heart
  • Heart’s electrical signaling pathways present issues
  • Heart attack 
  • Some types of muscular dystrophy 

What to Do Now?

When it comes to choosing between a pacemaker or a defibrillator, your heart specialist can suggest a better treatment based on your condition. Our experts at Memorial Cardiology Associates have the experience you need for a healthy heart; visit us to see for yourself. You can also schedule an appointment at: 

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