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Sometimes the heart can beat very slowly or very fast, or have an irregular rhythm. The right atria of the heart has its own pacemaker, the sino-atrial node. This communicates with another specialised part of the heart called the atrio-ventricular node. The normal signals between these 2 nodes constitute a heart rhythm called sinus rhythm. This is the rhythm in which most people without any degree of heart disease have. Pacemakers or debifrillators are implanted into patients who have heart rhythms which are different from healthy functioning hearts.
Pacemaker checks are carried out at the time of implantation and also at regular intervals thereafter. Depending on the type of pacemaker or defibrillator, these can be between 3 months to 12 months. When a pacemaker is checked by a cardiac technician, information is gathered about the battery and the general performance of the implant. Most pacemakers also store information about the rhythm of the heart when it is not being paced. The check involves a magnet being placed over the pacemaker which changes the rate at which the pacemaker will work .This rate change is analysed by a computer which reprograms the pacemaker to suit the individual requirements of the patient’s condition.
Most pacemaker batteries last between 5 and 10 years. At the pacemaker check, the cardiac technician or cardiologist will advise on whether a new battery is required. A battery change involves changing the pacemaker box, but leaving the leads in the heart.