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A single chamber pacemaker is a pacemaking device for the heart with a single lead, directed either to the atria or the ventricles. The artificial pacemaker is used to regulate the heartbeat of a patient with natural pacemaking problems and is implanted in a hospital setting in a brief surgery. Another option is a dual chamber pacemaker, where two leads are used to synchronize the atria and the ventricles. Once a pacemaker is installed, it is possible to add another lead or disconnect a lead, if necessary.
Most commonly, a lead to the atrium is used when a patient has a problem with the sinoatrial node, one of the natural pacemakers in the heart used to send electrical signals to tell the atrium to beat. In a condition known as sick sinus syndrome, the atria do not contract properly and the patient experiences a slowed or irregular heartbeat. The single chamber pacemaker can be used to control contractions of the atria and resolve the problem.
Ventricular leads are used for patients with heart block, where the heart fails to beat properly because electrical signals do not travel all the way through the heart. The single chamber pacemaker provides guidance to make the ventricles beat when needed, regulating the heartbeat and resolving medical issues associated with heart block.
Once the single chamber pacemaker is installed, it can be programmed and adjusted to suit the needs of the patient. An electrocardiogram can be requested and reviewed to make sure the patient's heart is working right. The patient will also need periodic followups to check on heart health and confirm that the pacemaker is still working. Patients who experience irregular heartbeat, shortness of breath, and fatigue after pacemaker installation need to see a physician for evaluation, as the device is either malfunctioning or not resolving the problem.
Patients can experience complications with a single chamber pacemaker. One possibility is pacemaker syndrome, where the heart gets out of synchronization and does not beat properly. If the patient does experience problems with the pacemaker, the device can be reprogrammed, a second lead can be added to turn it into a dual chamber pacemaker, or other options may be pursued. Patients who use pacemakers should make sure to keep information about the device on hand in case they need medical attention in an emergency, and documentation may also be needed for passing through security screenings where the pacemaker could trigger alarms.