Set the right pace of your heartbeat with a pacemaker

February 25th, 2008 - 10:14 am ICT by admin  

By Radhika Bhirani
New Delhi, Feb 25 (IANS) Unaware that her heart had missed a beat, Sudha Khanna, 74, a heart patient, became unconscious and fell on the floor one day. The doctors found that her heartbeat was slower than normal - a fatal situation for a heart patient. She was advised to get a pacemaker implanted. Sudha’s condition is known as bradycardia, when the heartbeats slow down.

“In India, about 100,000 patients suffer from bradycardia every year. Bradycardia slows down a person’s heartbeat. However, only 15,000 patients resort to pacemakers in India annually,” V.K. Chopra, a senior consultant of cardiology at the Escorts Heart Institute and Research Centre, told IANS.

A slow heart rate can lead to unconsciousness and dizziness in a normal person and also result in death of those who already have a weak heart, he explained.

“The normal heart beats 60 to 100 times per minute fulfilling the demands of the human body. If the heartbeat slows down, the brain will not receive enough blood. Hence, the system becomes weak, leading to dizziness,” he said.

He added that a heart beat rate below 40 to 45 beats per minute is a critical state, particularly for heart patients. He also said that if the heart beats slowly for a long time, it might lead to heart failure.

Ashok Seth, chairman and chief cardiologist at Max Healthcare, echoed a similar opinion. He said: “A person may lose consciousness or enter a state of coma. Brain and kidney functioning may also be affected because of this condition.”

A pacemaker is an effective treatment to facilitate proper functioning of the heart. Said Seth: “The best aspect about a pacemaker is that it is able to gauge the heart rate. For example, if a person indulges in increased physical activity, his/her heartbeat will ideally increase. In such a case, for a person with a pacemaker implant, the machine is able to adjust its pace according to the individual’s need and provide an impulse with appropriate frequency.”

According to experts, every person suffering from a slow heart beat rate can safely receive pacemaker implants, but those suffering from diabetes and failed kidneys require extra care.

“Diabetics should take extra control of their sugar levels and since they are vulnerable to infection, proper care must be ensured while implanting this foreign body in them,” Chopra explained.

The cost of a pacemaker implant depends on the type being used, which essentially varies on the requirement of an individual. A single chamber pacemaker could cost Rs.60,000 whereas a double chamber is priced between Rs.120,000 and Rs.150,000. Hence, the total cost of the surgery may vary from Rs.100,000 to Rs.200,000.

According to Chopra, a double chamber pacemaker is a wiser investment.

A pacemaker implant, however, poses certain limitations on the lifestyle of a patient. “A person with a pacemaker must avoid any electrical shocks, close proximity with magnetic fields, microwaves, cell phones and one major limitation is that they cannot undergo an MRI scan,” Chopra said.

A pacemaker ideally supports the smooth functioning of the heart for 11 to 12 years, say doctors. But if the patient’s heart requires constant aid from the machine, it would result in increased battery drainage requiring a quicker replacement.

Though pacemakers have been around for a while, the demand and knowledge about it is rising every year. Seth said: “With more affordability and increase in knowledge regarding medical procedures, people are beginning to accept pacemakers as a worthy life-saving instrument.”

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