Can You Have a Heart Attack With a Pacemaker?

Hi, Caitlin:

Your .wav question was, "Can a person still have a heart attack with a pacemaker?"

Yes. Heart attacks, in the way we usually talk about heart attacks, are caused when the heart muscle cannot get enough oxygen. This mainly occurs when one or more of the coronary (heart) arteries become blocked by fat or cholesterol. The heart rhythm that is usually fatal with a heart attack is caused by the heart beating too rapidly which causes it to need more oxygen which it already cannot get enough of, which causes it to beat more rapidly, etc. until it finally fibrillates or, a better word maybe, vibrates and does not beat at all.

Thanks for your question.

Your Occluded Key Pal,
Mr. D

Dear Krista:

Your .wav question was, "Have pacemakers saved peoples lives."

Yes, and they continue to do so on a daily basis. Many people have diseases of the conduction system of the heart and may "pass out" due to them. If the person has passed out because the heart rate is very slow, or not there at all, a temporary pacemaker may be able to revive that person and keep him, or her, alive until a permanent pacemaker can be implanted.

Your Palpitatin' Key Pal,
Mr. D

Dear Kara:

Your .wav question was, "How many people do I know who have pacemakers?"

I know hundreds of people who have pacemakers If you mean how many people in the world have pacemakers, the answer is hundreds of thousands. I will attempt to get the exact number for you when I return to work from vacation.

Your countin' Key Pal,
Mr. D

Hello, Gene

Your .wav question was, "Can your heart stop beating even if you have a pacemaker?"

Don't let Mrs. Weeg hear this, but the answer is, technically, yes. If the pacemaker and it's heart wire, called a lead (pronounced 'leed') are functioning normally it is extremely unlikely that the heart will stop beating. There are some medical conditions that can occur that will prevent the heart from "beating" in a normal way. Usually, the patient is very sick and in the hospital if any of these conditions are present.

Thanks for your question.

Your Lub-dup Key Pal,
Mr. D

Dear Kim:

Your questions was, "How could a person die if they had a pacemaker?"

The pacemaker only replaces the electrical system in the heart. If a person has a heart attack, for example, the oxygen is cut of from the muscle which will cause the heart to stop because of "mechanical" reasons. Heart muscle needs huge amounts of oxygen in order to do its job and when that oxygen cannot get to the muscle, it dies. The pacemaker can only 'pace' good heart muscle.

Hope this answers your question.

Your Ischemic Key Pal,
Mr. D

Dear Ashleigh:

Your question was, "Would a giant pacemaker have to be powered by an electric pole?"

Huh? No, it would have to be powered by a giant battery. I'm sure you have seen the commercials for the "Energizer T-Rex" - it keeps munching and munching and munch. . .

Thanks for the question.

Your Dino Key Pal,
Mr. D

Dear Ashley P.:

Your question was, "What animals have pacemakers?"

Besides us humans, the most popular animals to get pacemakers are dogs. There are a few in horses and a rare few in other types of animals. I do not know of a cat with a pacemaker, but I am sure there are some. We once placed a pacemaker in a Kangaroo named Skippy in San Diego. I am certain that a few primates (Chimps and Gorillas, especially) have been "re-energized" by pacemakers.

Hope this answers your question.

Your Primate Key Pal,
Mr. D
Delos Johnson

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