What Are Implanted/Monitoring Devices?
Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: June 2023 | Last updated: July 2023
Some people who have an abnormal heart rhythm or a disruption in their electrical impulses need help keeping their heart working right.1 There are cardiac devices that can help regulate the heartbeat.2 Implanted medical devices offer new options based on technological advances. They can be surgically implanted in the body to improve symptoms and survival rates.1 These devices generally work by transmitting electrical signals to the heart, so it beats in a regular, coordinated rhythm and pumps blood out into the body.1-2 Be sure to talk to your MD about precautions you should take if you have one of these devices and be sure to carry something to alert others that you have an implanted device.
With advances in technology, the devices are getting smaller with added functions and longer battery life.1 If you have an implanted device your health care team will monitor its functioning, generally through a remote monitor on an outpatient basis. Many devices now have built-in features that can transmit clinical data to your health care team or monitoring company without you having to be seen in a clinic. Telemonitoring can help your doctor or nurse evaluate heart rhythm, heart function, and activity level.2 Transmission can be done over a telephone line, cellular service or a wireless internet connection. This information can be evaluated by your team to better manage your condition. It can help identify early signs of heart failure worsening and to ensure you are getting the best treatment possible.1-3
Implanted cardiac devices can be used for rhythm control and to support the circulation of the heart.3 Yet, it is important to note that your health care team should evaluate all correctable causes of your heart condition before considering any implantable device.4
Implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD). An ICD is a battery-powered device that is surgically inserted under the skin with wires (called leads) that keeps track of your heart rhythm.3,5 It is recommended for people who are at risk for recurrent, sustained ventricular tachycardia or ventricular fibrillation.3 The ICD works to restore the heart to a normal rhythm and help prevent sudden cardiac death.3,5
The device leads are implanted into the heart tissue so that it can monitor the rhythm of the heart, "pace" the heart if needed and deliver electrical shocks if needed.
Pacemaker. Also a small battery-powered device, a pacemaker helps the heart to beat in a regular rhythm.3 It is useful in the management of heart rhythm disorders. A healthy heart has its own natural pacemaker. If heart failure or other cardiac condition causes a change in the heart rhythm, resulting in it to beat at a rate that is too fast (tachycardia) or too slow (bradycardia), or irregular (arrhythmia) - the electrical signal from the pacemaker can restore a more normal heartbeat. A pacemaker can be temporary or permanent. The determination is based on the presence of damage to the heart’s electrical system.3
Implanted medical devices are periodically evaluated for the need for reprogramming, a new battery or wire replacement.
Left Ventricular Assist Device (LVAD). The left ventricle is the largest chamber of the heart responsible for pumping oxygenated blood to nourish the body. If the heart is weakened and cannot pump enough blood to sustain life, an LVAD can help.3