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Implantable Devices

At UNC Medical Center, you’ll benefit from a team of electrophysiologists, nurses and technicians with extensive experience implanting and supporting pacemakers and implantable cardioverter defibrillators.

Implantable devices provide electrical stimulation to particular heart areas to help maintain normal heart rate or rhythm.

Who Needs an Implantable Device?

An implantable device may be appropriate for your heart condition if:

  • Your heart beats too slowly and is often irregular
  • Your heart beats normally but is sometimes too fast or too slow

Types of Implantable Devices

Your UNC Medical Center doctor may suggest one of these three types of implantable devices to treat your heart condition:

  • Pacemaker – Helps maintain heart rate when it’s too slow by delivering small electrical impulses to the heart; single-chamber pacemakers connect to one chamber in the right side of the heart, while dual-chamber pacemakers connect both the upper and lower right chambers
  • Bi-ventricular pacemaker – Maintains heart rate using synchronized pacing, or cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT), that connects both the right and left ventricles; used to treat advanced heart failure
  • Implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) – Monitors and paces the heart; delivers energy that restores the heart to a normal rhythm when it detects a dangerous rhythm; available in single-chamber, dual-chamber and bi-ventricular models.

Pacemaker or ICD Surgery

Pacemaker and ICD implantation is a minor surgical procedure performed under local anesthetic. Your doctor will thread the pacemaker or ICD wires through a vein to the correct place in your heart. Continuous X-ray imaging helps your doctor follow the wires as they pass through your vein and correctly place these pacemaker leads into your heart.

With the wires in place, your doctor will slip the pacemaker's small metal box through the incision, place it just under your skin, and connect it to the wires that lead to your heart. The box contains the pacemaker’s battery and generator or the ICD’s battery, pulse generator, and computer.

You’ll be admitted to the hospital overnight after your pacemaker or defibrillator is implanted.

Cardiac Rhythm Management Device Clinic

Get support for your implantable device at UNC Medical Center’s Cardiac Rhythm Management Device Clinic. Our specialty care team provides personalized attention for your pacemaker or ICD and can set up a convenient online monitoring system.

Extraction Procedure

UNC Medical Center is one of the few hospitals to offer lead extraction surgery. A lead is a wire that delivers energy from a pacemaker or ICD to your heart. You may need a lead extraction procedure if:

  • Damage occurs inside or outside of the lead
  • Infection exists at the site of the lead or the device
  • Scar tissue blocks the tip of the lead, which requires more energy to function than your pacemaker or ICD can deliver
  • Additional leads are needed but space is limited
  • The lead fails or the manufacturer issues a recall

Your doctor will extract the lead through a small incision in your chest or in your groin. New leads may be implanted during this procedure or later, depending on the reason for the procedure.

Contact Us

Call the Heart & Vascular Center referral line at 866-862-4327 to find specialists, make an appointment or learn more about preventing heart disease.

Open Access is a new physician referral service, created by the UNC Center for Heart & Vascular Care, which coordinates all admissions and transfers through a single phone call and guarantees immediate acceptance for patients. Please contact us to learn more or call 866-862-4327.

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