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can a pacemaker prevent a heart attack?

Posted on 2008-06-18
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Last Modified: 2008-06-19
my father has a pacemaker due to low heart rate.
I think it can prevent a heart attack and he says no it can not.
Because I knew someone who had a heart rate of 38 and he refused the pacemaker and died a few months later of a heart attack.
So, can a person with a pacemaker die of a heart attack?
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Question by:nickg5
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lherrou earned 90 total points
ID: 21818106
nickg5,

There's various reasons for having a heart attack. Among the most common are blockages of the arteries leading to death of some of the heart muscle (due to not getting enough blood), and electrical problems leading to the heart not beating as often or as regularly as it should. A pacemaker can only help with the second problem, and generally sends out a regular pulse or jolt that triggers the heart to contract (beat). Some pacemakers can also send a jolt to stop a fibrillating heart (when it starts trying to run too fast, and get out of coordination). It's not perfect, but can and does save many lives.

But, to answer your question, yes, someone with a fully-functional pacemaker can still die of a heart attack - since the pacemaker can only help with some of the reasons why they occur, and not perfectly in every case.

Cheers,
LHerrou
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by:☠ MASQ ☠
☠ MASQ ☠ earned 80 total points
ID: 21818146
This is about the semantics of  what is called "heart attack"

The common understanding of "heart attack" is when the normal electrical activity of the heart is disrupted sufficiently by anything to prevent normal function. At this point instead of the heart muscle pumping in an organized way the muscle becomes completely disorganized and so blood flow around the body stops because the pump is no longer working.

If the electrical disruption can be stabilised (i.e. by defibrillation) then pacemakers will work. They simply monitor the heart rhythm and if it is disrupted act as a mini defibrilator to shock it back into normal function.

This relies on the heart muscle being undamaged.

If a significant amount of the heart muscle becomes damaged by myocardial infarction - also described as 'heart attack' - then no amount of defibrilation will restart it.  The area of muscle affected simply can no longer function.

Pacemakers are therefore offered to individulas who have a known risk of electrical disturbance in the heart muscle.
They are no help if the blood vessels supplying the heart become obstructed and prevent oxygen and nutrients reaching the tissue.

This is how someone with a pacemaker can still have a "heart attack" and die.
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by:pzozulka
pzozulka earned 80 total points
ID: 21818182
The Medulla Oblingada, located in the brain, is the body's automation center. It is responsible for sending automatic electrical impulses to the body's muscles. It is responsible for many involuntary muscles, including the ones responsible for breathing (sends electrical impulses to the diaphragm to contract) making one's lungs expand for oxygen/CO2 exchange to occur). The Medulla Oblingada is also responsible for heart arrhythmia.  It sends electrical impulses to the heart to make it contract.

There are many different heart diseases out there. The pace maker is responsible for maintaining your heart's arrhythmia (beats). This usually occurs when the neuro-transmitters in the Medulla Oblingada are not operating normally, thus the irregular heart beats.

This is where the pacemaker comes in to stabilize the heart beat.

However, the pacemaker does not prevent any other types of heart disease, including high cholesterol, and plaque build up in the arteries.

Common heart attacks are caused by plaque build up which slows down the blood flow to the heart.
Another common heart attack is caused when the plaque gets together and forms a clot. Once this clot reaches the heart, the heart attack occurs.

To learn more, I would contact a physician.
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by:lherrou
ID: 21818735
Actually, MASQUERAID, MOST pacemakers do NOT have the capability of defibrillating, they simply trigger muscular contractions with a much smaller voltage that what would be needed for defibrillation. It is true that some pacemakers, generally only inserted for patients where the neuro-electrical system of the heart is failing in a way which leads to fibrillation, do have that capability, but those are not the norm.

http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/dci/Diseases/pace/pace_howdoes.html
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by:☠ MASQ ☠
ID: 21819991
Agreed - just trying not to get overly detailed ;)
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Author Comment

by:nickg5
ID: 21823959
my fathers pacemaker was installed due to a low heart rate.
I do not know if his can deal will fibrillation or not.
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