Question: What is the difference between abnormal heart rhythms treated by pacemakers and defibrillators?
Answer :Well the arrhythmia that is treated by a pacemaker is usually a slow form of heartbeat. And by that again the heart is not contracting fast enough. And so the pacemaker will come in and bring an electrical signal to allow the heart to contract at a certain interval so that you don't pass out. On the other side, defibrillators are used for life-threatening arrhythmias. There's one specific arrhythmia called ventricular fibrillation. This is a lethal life-threatening arrhythmia. What this is is the heart a bunch of different portions of the heart start pacing erratically and not rhythmically not allowing the heart to contract. What the defibrillator does is it provides an electrical shock.
So I'm sure everybody's seen on TV where everybody says get out of there, put on the paddles, give a shock. And that's basically what you're doing is defibrillating. Now what has been developed is again a device is like a pacemaker, a wire goes in the heart, and if this life threatening arrhythmia occurs, a large shock is given inside the heart which actually prompts the heart to arrest, to stop beating for a second, so that rhythmic contractions can start occurring again.
So they are very different functions, the pacemaker provides little signals that are necessary to get the heart beating rhythmically, the defibrillator provides the very large shock inside the heart. It basically stops this irregular life-threatening arrhythmia of ventricular fibrillation from killing people. And the defibrillator's been one of the most dramatically effective methods that we've had in cardiology to decrease the chance that people are going to drop over dead with ventricular fibrillation.