Your heart\u2019s electrical system sends out signals to your heart muscle, which squeezes to pump blood throughout your body.\nIf you have a problem with your heart’s electrical system, a pacemaker can help.\nA pacemaker helps your heart beat faster, slower, or in a more steady way. This allows your body to get the oxygen and nutrients it needs.\nLearn the facts and get answers to some common questions about pacemakers.\nPacemaker FAQ\nWhat is a pacemaker?\nA pacemaker is a small device that includes:\n\nA computer with electrical circuits that restores your heart\u2019s normal pace.\nA battery that powers the computer.\nWires \u2014 called leads \u2014 that connect the computer to your heart.\n\nA thin metal box covers the computer and battery. The leads extend out from the box and have sensors at their tips.\nHow does a pacemaker work?\nWhile your heart beats, the sensors send data to the computer in your pacemaker.\n\n\n\nIf your heart beats\nThen\n\n\nnormally,\nyour pacemaker simply monitors the beats.\n\n\ntoo fast, too slow, or in an irregular way,\nthe pacemaker’s computer sends out electrical signals to regulate the beats.\n\n\n\nWho needs a pacemaker?\nPacemakers treat people who have arrhythmias, or problems with heart rate or rhythm.\nThe experts at the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute specialize in pacemaker implants and management. To learn more, call 1-855-UPMC-HVI.\nYou may need a pacemaker if you have:\n\nBradycardia \u2014 a heartbeat that’s too slow.\nHeart block \u2014 an electrical problem that can happen because of aging.\nHeart attack or other health problems that affect the heart\u2019s electrical system.\nAtrial fibrillation \u2014 a condition that makes the top and bottom chambers of your heart beat out of rhythm with each other.\nSyncope, or fainting caused by a slow heartbeat.\n\nSome people may need pacemakers for just a short after having a heart attack or heart surgery. Others need pacemakers for the rest of their lives to help manage ongoing heart problems.\nHow do doctors implant a pacemaker?\nTo implant your pacemaker, your doctor will:\n\nGive you medicine to help you relax and to numb the implant area.\nPlace a needle into a large vein and thread the leads through the vein into your heart.\nMake a small cut in your skin and place the pacemaker box under your skin.\nConnect the wires to the box.\nTest the pacemaker to make sure it works.\n\nThe implant usually takes about two hours, and you can expect to stay in the hospital overnight.\nYour health care team will make sure your device is working properly before you go home.\nHow soon can I get back to my routine?\nYour doctor will let you know when you can get back to your normal routine, including:\n\nWorking\nDriving\nExercising\n\nMost people should avoid strenuous activities and heavy lifting for about one month after the pacemaker implant.\nWill I have to make changes to my lifestyle?\nYour doctor may suggest lifestyle changes to help manage your heart problem, like:\n\nGetting more exercise.\nChanging your diet.\nQuitting smoking.\nFinding healthy ways to cope with stress.\n\nYou may also need to track your heart rate on a routine basis and take medicines to help manage your condition.\nBe sure to follow your treatment plan, and let your doctor know about any changes in how you feel, including symptoms like:\n\nFast weight gain\nSwelling in your feet or ankles\nDizziness\nFainting\n\nWhat if my pacemaker stops working?\nIn most cases, you\u2019ll need to have your pacemaker checked every three to six months to make sure it\u2019s working right.\nPacemaker batteries last about five to eight years. Your doctor will let you know when it\u2019s time to replace them.\nWhat should I do to stay safe with my pacemaker?\nPeople with pacemakers can live very normal lives, but it\u2019s a good idea to keep the following in mind:\n\nKeep your pacemaker ID card with you at all times. You may also want to get a medical ID bracelet or necklace that lets others know you have a pacemaker.\nAlways tell your doctors, dentist, and other health care providers that you have a pacemaker. Some types of medical equipment \u2014 like MRI machines \u2014 can affect how they work.\nBefore going through security at an airport, sports arena, or other venue, let security know that you have a pacemaker.\nTalk with your doctor about the kinds of home appliances you regularly use. In most cases, household items like microwaves will not affect your pacemaker, but some appliances and equipment can interfere.\nWhen talking on your cell phone, hold the phone on the side of your body opposite the pacemaker. Don\u2019t carry your phone in the breast pocket of your shirt or coat.