The constant pumping action of the heart keeps us alive. There are a number of electrical impulses sent by the cardiac muscles that help in regular contraction and relaxation of the heart. These electrical impulses are called heart rhythms. Any disorder with the heart rate or heart rhythm, may cause the heart to pump blood too quickly or too slow. This irregular heart pattern may give rise to many problems in the electrical system of the heart such as arrhythmia. In order to correct heart arrhythmia, a doctor many suggest implantation of a defibrillator or pacemaker. Although both these devices help correcting heart irregularities, there are quite a few differences between them. In order to understand the difference between these two devices, let us have a look at the information related to implantable cardioverter defibrillator and pacemaker individually.
Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (ICD)
An ICD is a machine that helps detect the electrical currents in the heart. It is larger in size than a pacemaker and is usually implanted in patients who show highly elevated heartbeat rates. A person with arrhythmia experiences the heartbeats that are too fast or too slow. The ICD monitors the heart rate. When it detects that the heartbeats are too fast, it sends an electric shock. This electric shock stops the heart from beating at an unnaturally high heart rate. Thus, the correct tempo of heartbeats is reached, and the heart begins to function at a normal pace.
The internal defibrillator constantly monitors the heart rate and records them for future treatment plans. It can be preset with the number of heartbeats that helps it to distinguish normal heart rhythm from an abnormal one. A few of the latest ICDs can also differentiate between ventricular fibrillation and ventricular tachycardia. This means they can help the heart to beat faster than its intrinsic rate or regulate fast beats to a normal rate. The device is implanted by passing an electrode wire into a vein to the right chamber of the heart. It is generally placed at the apex of the right ventricle during a defibrillator implant surgery. Some of the latest devices are placed outside the ribcage or just under skin.
The pacemaker is a heart device similar to an ICD; however, it monitors the electrical impulses of the heart. It's main function is to maintain the correct heart rate by regulating the heartbeats. The device is implanted when the natural pacemaker mechanism of the heart is not functioning properly or there is a block in the electrical system of the heart.
The device keeps the heart beating at a normal rate by monitoring the heartbeat. If it's too slow it sends electrical signals to the heart to beat at a faster rate. It helps control abnormal as well as fast heart rhythm, and coordinates the electrical signals in the upper and lower chambers of the heart.
Most of the pacemakers are used to treat temporary heart problems due to a heart attack or heart surgery, etc. They are also used in emergencies to regulate heartbeats. The permanent pacemaker is implanted for long-term management of heart rhythms. It is placed under the skin near the heart to monitor and control the heartbeats.
A pacemaker controls the abnormal heart rhythms with help of electrical pulses while an ICD uses electric current to encourage the heart to beat as efficiently as possible. Therefore, the doctor needs to monitor your heart health and then decide whether a defibrillator or pacemaker will be the correct choice to treat your heart disease.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.