Charlie Daniels Gets A Pacemaker – Celebrity Diagnosis

Grand Ole Opry star Charlie Daniels is resting comfortably after having a pacemaker placed.

The 76-year-old, best known for his monster hit, “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” was hospitalized with pneumonia on Monday. During the hospitalization, physician decided that Daniels needed to have a heart pacemaker placed to regulate his heart rate. Daniels told People magazine:

I just had not been feeling well and wanted to get checked out.I am thankful the doctors found the problem and were able to implant a pacemaker to get my heart rate regulated. I am feeling so much better and looking forward to spending Easter with my family.

What Is a Pacemaker?

A pacemaker is a small device that’s placed in the chest or abdomen to help control abnormal heart rhythms. This device uses electrical pulses to prompt the heart to beat at a normal rate.

Pacemakers are used to treat arrhythmias– problems with the rate or rhythm of the heartbeat. During an arrhythmia, the heart can beat too fast, too slow, or with an irregular rhythm.

A heartbeat that’s too fast is called tachycardia. A heartbeat that’s too slow is called bradycardia.

During an arrhythmia, the heart may not be able to pump enough blood to the body. This can cause symptoms such as fatigue (tiredness), shortness of breath, or fainting. Severe arrhythmias can damage the body’s vital organs and may even cause unconsciousness or death.

A pacemaker can relieve some arrhythmia symptoms, such as fatigue and fainting. A pacemaker also can help a person who has abnormal heart rhythms resume a more active lifestyle.

Understanding the Heart’s Electrical System

Your heart has its own internal electrical system that controls the rate and rhythm of your heartbeat. With each heartbeat, an electrical signal spreads from the top of your heart to the bottom. As the signal travels, it causes the heart to contract and pump blood.

Each electrical signal normally begins in a group of cells called the sinus node or sinoatrial (SA) node. As the signal spreads from the top of the heart to the bottom, it coordinates the timing of heart cell activity.

First, the heart’s two upper chambers, the atria contract. This contraction pumps blood into the heart’s two lower chambers, the ventricles. The ventricles then contract and pump blood to the rest of the body. The combined contraction of the atria and ventricles is a heartbeat.

 

Faulty electrical signaling in the heart causes arrhythmias. Pacemakers use low-energy electrical pulses to overcome this faulty electrical signaling.

Pacemakers can:

  • Speed up a slow heart rhythm.
  • Help control an abnormal or fast heart rhythm.
  • Make sure the ventricles contract normally if the atria are quivering instead of beating with a normal rhythm (a condition called atrial fibrillation).
  • Coordinate electrical signaling between the upper and lower chambers of the heart.
  • Coordinate electrical signaling between the ventricles. Pacemakers that do this are called cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT) devices. CRT devices are used to treat heart failure.
  • Prevent dangerous arrhythmias caused by a disorder called long QT syndrome.

Pacemakers also can monitor and record the heart’s electrical activity and heart rhythm. Newer pacemakers can also monitor blood temperature, breathing rate, and other factors. They also can adjust the heart rate to account for changes in activity.

Pacemakers can be temporary or permanent. Temporary pacemakers are used to treat short-term heart problems, such as a slow heartbeat that’s caused by a heart attack, heart surgery, or an overdose of medicine.

Temporary pacemakers also are used during emergencies. They might be used until a temporary condition goes away.

Permanent pacemakers are used to control long-term heart rhythm problems.

How Does a Pacemaker Work?

A pacemaker consists of a battery, a computerized generator, and wires with sensors at their tips. (The sensors are called electrodes.) The battery powers the generator, and both are surrounded by a thin metal box. The wires connect the generator to the heart.

A pacemaker helps monitor and control the heartbeat. The electrodes detect the heart’s electrical activity and send data through the wires to the computer in the generator.

If the heart rhythm is abnormal, the computer will direct the generator to send electrical pulses to the heart. The pulses travel through the wires to reach it.

pacemaker

Pacemakers have one to three wires that are each placed in different chambers of the heart:

  • The wires in a single-chamber pacemaker usually carry pulses from the generator to the right ventricle (the lower right chamber of your heart).
  • The wires in a dual-chamber pacemaker carry pulses from the generator to the right atrium (the upper right chamber of your heart) and the right ventricle. The pulses help coordinate the timing of these two chambers’ contractions.
  • The wires in a biventricular pacemaker carry pulses from the generator to an atrium and both ventricles. The pulses help coordinate electrical signaling between the two ventricles. This type of pacemaker also is called a cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT) device.

How Will a Pacemaker Affect My Lifestyle?

Once you have a pacemaker, you have to avoid close or prolonged contact with electrical devices or devices that have strong magnetic fields. Devices that can interfere with a pacemaker include:

  • Cell phones and MP3 players (for example, iPods)
  • Household appliances, such as microwave ovens
  • High-tension wires
  • Metal detectors
  • Industrial welders
  • Electrical generators

These devices can disrupt the electrical signaling of your pacemaker and stop it from working properly.

To be safe, some experts recommend not putting your cell phone or MP3 player in a shirt pocket over your pacemaker (if the devices are turned on).

You may want to hold your cell phone up to the ear that’s opposite the site where your pacemaker is implanted. If you strap your MP3 player to your arm while listening to it, put it on the arm that’s farther from your pacemaker.

You can still use household appliances, but avoid close and prolonged exposure, as it may interfere with your pacemaker.

You can walk through security system metal detectors at your normal pace. Security staff can check you with a metal detector wand as long as it isn’t held for too long over your pacemaker site. You should avoid sitting or standing close to a security system metal detector. Notify security staff if you have a pacemaker.

Some medical procedures can disrupt your pacemaker. These procedures include:

  • Magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI
  • Shock-wave lithotripsy to get rid of kidney stones
  • Electrocauterization to stop bleeding during surgery

In most cases, having a pacemaker won’t limit you from doing sports and exercise, including strenuous activities.

You may need to avoid full-contact sports, such as football. Such contact could damage your pacemaker or shake loose the wires in your heart. Ask your doctor how much and what kinds of physical activity are safe for you.

Pacemaker batteries last between 5 and 15 years (average 6 to 7 years), depending on how active the pacemaker is.

Source: National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute

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