Pacemakers and Defibrillators

A pacemaker is a small device, implanted under the skin to sends electrical signals to start or regulate a slow heartbeat.

A permanent pacemaker may be used to help the heart beat if its natural pacemaker does not function properly, has developed an abnormal heart rate or rhythm, or if the electrical pathways are blocked.

An implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) resembles a pacemaker but is slightly larger with a generator and leads with electrodes. These components work like a pacemaker. However, a defibrillator is designed to deliver an electrical shock to the heart when the heart rate becomes dangerously fast—when it “fibrillates.”

Three main sources
Most of the pacemakers and defibrillators made in the United States come from three sources: Guidant Corp. (which was purchased by Boston Scientific in April 2006), Medtronic Inc. and St. Jude Medical. Some have been defective, leading to hundreds of civil lawsuits.

If a patient suffers from a slow or a fast heartbeat, implantable devices will make the heartbeat regular and treat an arrhythmia. Generally, slow heartbeats are treated with pacemakers. Fast heartbeats, which may lead to cardiac arrest, are treated with defibrillators.

Pacing the heart
In patients who experience fatigue, dizziness or fainting with a slow heartbeat, a mechanical generator is needed to pace the heart, hence to allow normal blood flow. Modern pacemakers are small computers—about the size of a pair of quarters. The generator, which is placed under the skin, by the left or right collarbone, is attached to either one or two small wires that are placed into the vein and into the right side of the heart.

Learn the answers to frequently asked questions about the problems associated with pacemakers and defibrillators.

If you have had problems with a heart device, contact your doctor. You may then wish to call the attorneys at Hissey Kientz, LLP toll-free at (866) 275-4454 for a consultation or fill out a free online case evaluation to the right of this page.

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