The heart is a vital organ that beats at a near constant rate at all times. It is a pump made of special tissues that are stimulated by electrical impulses. In some cases natural rhythm of the human heart is disturbed due to irregularities in the electrical impulses generated by the heart muscles. This results in a medical complication known as arrhythmia. There are two types of arrhythmia; either the heart beats at a much faster rate (tachycardia), more than 100 beats per minute, or the heart rate is very slow (bradycardia), lesser than 60 beats per minute. Defibrillator implant surgery is performed by a cardiac surgeon in order to restore heart health in severe cases of arrhythmia and hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.
This surgery involves implantation of an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) or simply defibrillator. The ICD is a small device that helps control the heart rate, so that it beats normally, even if the electrical impulses generated by the cardiac muscles are irregular. It comes with two parts - a pulse generator (encasing electronic circuits and battery) and wire (leads). Number of leads may be one or two, depending upon the condition of the patient.
During surgical procedure, an ICD is placed underneath the skin, either in the chest or above the waistline. The end of the leads are positioned inside the heart or in the walls, while the other ends are connected to the ICD. The procedure lasts about 2 hours, but it may take as long as 5 hours in certain complicated cases. Following the surgery, the concerned physician performs certain tests to ensure proper working of the device.
After placing an ICD correctly, the leads function and monitor the heart rate. In case of any irregular heart rhythm, the pulse generator sends out mild electrical impulses to restore normal heartbeats. If the heart is still not functioning properly, the pulse generator gives a shock to the heart, after which normal heartbeat is resumed. According to people who have had a defibrillator implant, the shock feels like a sudden thump in the chest area.
After the surgery is completed, the patient is required to stay in the hospital for at 1-2 days. During the hospital stay, close monitoring is done to ensure that the electronic device is functioning correctly. In the recuperation period, the patient is not supposed to lift heavy objects or perform strenuous activities. Complete recovery after defibrillator surgery is achieve within a few weeks, and the candidate can resume to normal activities after that.
As with any therapeutic procedure, there are certain risks which every candidate must know before undergoing the surgery. The risks factors include infection because of the device, malfunctioning, pulse generator-related problems, and sending out inappropriate electrical impulses. Nevertheless, severe medical complication after the surgery is lower than expected.
An individual who has undergone this surgery should go for routine checkups after every 2-3 months or as directed by the doctor. A special device known as programmer is used to check normal functioning of ICD and battery power left in the device. A superior quality device functions optimally for 4-8 years, however, the longevity of the ICD depends on how frequently it has sent out shock impulses to the heart.
It is understandable that the surgery is performed to increase the life expectancy of patient with cardiac arrhythmia condition. Many heart disease patients succeed in leading a trouble-free life after the procedure. However, gathering information about the surgery is imperative for every prospective candidate to understand the working mechanism, success rates, and risks of this therapeutic intervention.