Understanding the Difference Between an Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator and a Pacemaker

Heart problems are something that you never want to have to deal with; however, sometimes, you don’t have a choice. Whether you have an irregular heartbeat or something a little more serious, you want to get the best treatment you can to live a long and healthy life. Depending on what the problem is, your treatment could involve an implanted device, like a pacemaker or defibrillator.

At Lakewood Cardiovascular Consultants, our staff specializes in many different cardiac problems. Heading up our team is board-certified cardiologist Dr. Erick Calderon. He’s assisted by Cynthia Bosch, our nurse practitioner. Dr. Calderon specializes in implanted pacemaker and cardiac defibrillator insertion to help you get your heart back on track. 

Why do you need a pacemaker or defibrillator?

Your heart is a complex organ that you absolutely need to live. It pumps oxygenated blood throughout your body, so when something goes wrong, it can be very detrimental to your health. This is where devices such as a pacemaker or defibrillator come into play.

When your heart is completely healthy, you’re in a rhythm known as normal sinus rhythm. This is exactly as it sounds—completely normal. However, changes in the electrical impulses of your heart can lead to abnormal heartbeats, also known as arrhythmias. Arrhythmias have the ability to change not only the speed your heart is beating but also the rhythm.

Both pacemakers and implantable cardioverter defibrillators, known as ICDs, monitor and treat these abnormal heartbeats. If you need one of these devices, your heartbeat may be too slow or too fast, or in a rhythm that’s completely irregular. There are, however, other reasons that could lead to you needing a pacemaker or ICD.

A pacemaker is a device that monitors your heartbeat. It senses when your heart is beating too fast or too slow, and if it’s in an irregular rhythm. Some reasons that you might need this device include:

If you’ve dealt with any of the above problems and other treatment hasn’t helped, you might be a candidate for a pacemaker. There are other conditions that could require a little bit more aggressive treatment that a pacemaker can’t offer; this is when you would need an ICD instead. Some of the reasons for this include:

When you’ve had a previous event that was triggered by a detrimental arrhythmia like ventricular tachycardia or ventricular fibrillation, and ICD is the likely path for you.

The difference between the two

While these two devices are similar to each other, they’re also very different in several ways. One of the biggest differences is that the cardiac defibrillator can shock your heart out of arrhythmia when needed, whereas the pacemaker can’t.

Both of these devices deliver electrical impulses to your heart when they sense an abnormality in your heart rate or rhythm. However, an ICD can deliver a shock to your heart when it senses a lethal arrhythmia to keep you from going into cardiac arrest.

Another difference between the two is the ability of the ICD to record shocks and irregularities, whereas the pacemaker only records your rhythm. This allows Dr. Calderon to make changes to your treatment when needed. It can also show him how often your heart needs to be shocked, which allows for improvements to your lifestyle or medications.

The pacemaker only has the ability to control the rate of your heartbeat and regulate your rhythm. It doesn’t have the capability to send an aggressive shock to your heart when you go into a lethal arrhythmia. However, ICDs have the ability to do everything that a pacemaker can do, including regulating heart arrhythmias. 

If you think you may need an implantable device for your heart problem, come see Dr. Calderon at our office in Sarasota County, Florida. Call us or request an appointment online.

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