Pacemaker celebrates silver anniversary

The Toronto Hospital Pacemaker Club celebrated its 25th anniversary yesterday, marking a quarter century of extended and enriched lives through this wonderful piece of technology. In attendance at a special event at the hospital were Dr. Bill Bigelow, who invented the cardiac pacemaker at The Toronto Hospital in 1951, and Dr. Edward Noble, a cardiologist and a founding member of the club.

When the heart’s own bioelectrical triggering system ceases to work properly, a pacemaker is often the solution. The pacemaker has two parts — a battery-powered generator and the wires that connect it to the heart. The silver-dollar-size generator, which has an effective life of seven to 12 years, is implanted just beneath the skin below the collarbone. The leads are threaded into position through veins leading back to the heart. The entire implantation procedure requires only a local anesthetic, and takes about an hour.

Most patients with pacemakers suffer from a condition in which the heart beats too slowly — bradyarrhythmia is the medical term. This is most commonly a result of deterioration in the heart’s own pacing system in elderly patients, though high blood pressure, coronaryrtery disease or scarring from a heart attack can also cause this condition.