Pacemakers and implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs) are small devices that deliver energy to the heart through thin, flexible wires called leads. They are implanted beneath the skin, below the collarbone. In the majority of cases we can place the devices with minimally invasive techniques on an outpatient basis (one day or an overnight stay).
The procedure for inserting a pacemaker or ICD is the same, and is performed in our newly remodeled
electrophysiology facilities. UC San Diego Health is also one of the few medical centers to offer
laser lead extraction if one of the leads needs to be removed because of infection or damage.
Pacemakers work "on demand" to treat slow heart rhythms. The small electronic devices are connected to one or more wires (leads) that run to the heart's atrium and/or ventricle via a vein. When the heartbeat is too slow, the pacemaker delivers a small electrical impulse to stimulate the heart to beat.
We are now one of the first in the nation to implant a new leadless pacemaker that is one-tenth the size of a traditional pacemaker. The new device can help treat bradycardia, a condition characterized by a slow or irregular heart rhythm, usually fewer than 60 beats per minute.
Unlike traditional pacemakers, the new device does not require cardiac wires (leads) or a surgical "pocket" under the skin to deliver a pacing therapy. Instead, the device is small enough to be delivered through a catheter via the groin and implanted directly into the heart with small tines.
Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillators (ICDs)
ICDs work much like pacemakers, but are used to treat life-threatening rapid heart rhythms originating from the lower chambers of the heart. If the heart has stopped (cardiac arrest) or is experiencing rapid, abnormal heart rhythms that cannot be controlled by drugs or other approaches, this device may be used. It may also be used in patients with very weak heart muscle where there is an increased risk of developing dangerous heart rhythms.
Advanced Remote Monitoring
Patients with pacemakers or ICDs can take advantage of UC San Diego Health's advanced remote monitoring program. Wireless technology in your device can track changes in heart function or rhythm and transmit the information to your physician's office. The information is both for routine monitoring (discussed at clinic visits) or, in the case of a cardiac incident or irregularity, so our physicians can contact you for an immediate appointment.
Biventricular Pacemakers or Defibrillators for Cardiac Resynchronization Therapy (CRT)
In addition to conventional pacemakers and ICDs, our physicians use biventricular pacemakers or ICDs for a treatment known as
cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT). CRT devices work by pacing both the left and right ventricles simultaneously, which results in resynchronizing the muscle contractions and improving the efficiency of the weakened heart.