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Latest pacemaker technology helps heart failure patients lead fuller lives
03/29/2006
Queen Martindale of Hopkins has been aware of her heart disease since her early 60s. Born into a family of 18 children, she’d always worked hard— even after her cardiologist advised her to slow down. Unfortunately, at age 73, she suffered a sudden heart attack.

“I woke up one morning feeling pretty energetic and decided I’d do some ironing,” she says. “I went into the kitchen and was glancing at the TV in the other room when, all of a sudden, I fell straight to the floor. My son ran to the kitchen, helped pick me up and called 911.”

Martindale was taken to Palmetto Health Richland’s Heart Hospital, where cardiologists ran a battery of diagnostic tests, including a heart catheterization. The results were conclusive: Martindale’s heart was failing and inserting a pacemaker was her best chance for survival.

Cardiologist Dr. Wade Collins performed Martindale’s surgery, which involved giving her the latest in pacemaker technology: a biventricular pacemaker.

“A biventricular pacemaker is designed to treat congestive heart failure patients whose hearts have been weakened or damaged by a heart attack,” Collins explains. “In many heart failure patients, the left and right ventricles are no longer pumping together as they should. A biventricular pacemaker resynchronizes the pumping action.”

While standard pacemakers traditionally pace either the lower-right chamber of the heart or the lower-right and the upper-right chambers together, a biventricular pacemaker paces both of the lower chambers of the heart. This enables the device to stimulate the left and right ventricles simultaneously,allowing the left ventricle to pump blood more efficiently.

It’s been nearly a year since Martindale first received her biventricular pacemaker. She did suffer a few setbacks but she’s doing great these days.

“It did take me a long time to recover,” she says. “But now I try to walk a half hour every morning and evening, and I take a one-hour water aerobics class three times a week. For the last six years or so before my surgery, I couldn’t do much of anything. I know I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for Dr. Collins giving me my pacemaker.”

What’s the difference?

Like a traditional pacemaker, a biventricular pacemaker consists of a battery-powered generator responsible for creating the electric impulses that pace the heartbeat and wire leads that carry the electrical impulses from the generator.

A biventricular pacemaker has a lead that stimulates the left ventricle in addition to the standard pacemaker leads. This provides the resynchronization effect, and ultimately enhances the patient’s quality of life.

CARDIAC REHAB...IS IT FOR YOU?

The Palmetto Health Heart Hospital currently offers a comprehensive lifestyle management program for cardiac patients, individuals at risk for developing heart disease and those interested in a medically supervised exercise program. Our expert staff provides customized nutritional information, stress management tips, and exercise programs weekday mornings and evenings. Physician referral is required. For more information, call 434-6966.