Pacemaker Surgery Overview

Pacemakers are used to treat arrhythmia, an irregular heartbeat. Most arrhythmias are harmless, but some can lead to organ damage or death.

What Is a Pacemaker?

A pacemaker is a small device that is used to regulate your heart rhythm. The pacemaker system, which consists of a battery pack (pulse generator) and either one or two wires (leads), is surgically implanted under the skin in your chest, just beneath your collarbone. The pacemaker continuously monitors your heart's natural rhythm and will stimulate the heart to beat when it senses that your own heart rhythm is too slow.

Pacemaker Surgery at Brigham and Women’s Hospital

The Heart Rhythm Disorders Program at our state-of-the-art Shapiro Cardiovascular Center is an internationally recognized leader in the evaluation and treatment of arrhythmias, a condition which affects millions of people each year.

Pacemaker surgery is typically performed by an electrophysiologist, a surgeon who has specialized training in implanting pacemakers and similar devices. A small incision (2-3 inches) is made under your collarbone either on the right or left side of your chest. Depending on the type of pacemaker system you need, either one of two leads will be placed through a large vein under your collarbone and threaded down the inside of your heart. The physician implanting your device uses a special type of x-ray (fluoroscopy) to position the leads inside your heart. After the leads are attached to the inner surface of the heart muscle, electrical measurements are performed to ensure a proper location and fixation.

Once the lead(s) are positioned inside your heart muscle, the physician will then create a small pocket or space to fit the pulse generator under the skin of your chest. The lead(s) are then plugged in to the pulse generator and firmly tightened in place. The pulse generator is then placed in to the pocket and the skin is sutured (sewn) back together. A dressing is placed over the operative site to keep it clean. As with most surgical procedures, antibiotics are generally given before and after your pacemaker implantation to decrease the likelihood of infection.

Cardiovascular Care at Brigham and Women’s Hospital

The Carl J. and Ruth Shapiro Cardiovascular Center at BWH is one of the most advanced centers of its kind in the New England region. Bringing together the full range of cardiovascular services in one building, the Center provides the technology and infrastructure to enable seamless and coordinated care for all cardiovascular patients.

Patient- and Family-focused Care
Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) has long been committed to not only the care of our patients, but also the many other needs that they and their families have. This philosophy of patient- and family-focused care – involving systems and services that emphasize healing in a comfortable, relaxed environment – is a guiding force behind the care we provide at the Center.

Quality of Patient Care
BWH is committed to providing all of our patients with the safest, highest-quality, most-satisfying care possible and follow established protocols that have been shown to improve patient outcomes. Our Inpatient Satisfaction Survey, sent to patients’ to assess their total care experience, helps us to monitor what we are doing well and where we could improve. We pride ourselves in the Quality of Patient Care we provide and how we compare with other hospitals.

Brigham and Women’s Cardiac Surgery Team

Our cardiac surgery team of physicians, nurses, physician’s assistants, and staff work closely with colleagues in cardiology, vascular surgery, imaging, and nursing to deliver safe, effective, and compassionate care to every patient.

Contact Us

If you believe you should have an evaluation and would like to schedule an appointment with one of our cardiac surgery experts, call 1-800-294-9999 to speak to one of our knowledgeable coordinators who can help to connect you to the doctor that best meets your needs, or fill out an online appointment request form.