With cardiac diseases on the rise, the word pacemaker and stent have become common terminologies. A few decades ago, not everybody understood or used these terms so regularly. However, there is a significant difference between these two devices, in terms of their function and structure.
As an organ, the heart has two functional and structural aspects to it, as in:
- Circulatory, where it sends blood to all parts of the blood vessels through a well-connected network of arteries and veins.
- Electrical, where there are small electrical impulses that travel through the walls of the heart to regulate the blood flow. The starting point of the heart’s function is the electrical impulse that is self-generated in a small portion known as the pacemaker of the heart.
As a device, the pacemaker and stent are completely different in design and function.
Here are a few facts about a stent:
- The stent is a thin wire, like a tube that is inserted into the blocked artery to prevent it from closing again.
- As the arteries are elastic, they tend to collapse, so this metal stent prevents them from closing over again. The stent is left in place permanently so that the artery does not collapse again, leading to another ischemia.
- In very rare cases, the stent may need to be replaced, if the patient does not follow instructions, and there is further plaque formation.
Now, read on to understand what is a pacemaker and how is it different from a stent.
- The pacemaker is a small, battery-operated electrical device that is placed in the sternum (chest area) to regular irregular heartbeats.
- It has a small pulse generator that produces the current or impulse and then leads which transmit the impulse to the rest of the heart.
- Depending on the actual condition, the pacemaker is set to correct the irregular rhythm.
- Pacemakers can also be used for short periods of time and removed once the heart regulates its rhythm.
When a person develops heart disease, either of the two functions can be affected, and accordingly, a pacemaker or stent is used depending on the underlying condition.
- A common problem with the circulatory system is the narrowing of the arteries. With altering food habits, there is a gradual slow deposition of cholesterol within the elastic arteries known as plaque. This leads to arterial narrowing and the organ that the artery supplies is deprived of blood supply. A sudden complete blockage can lead to heart attacks or stroke, depending on which artery is affected.
- When the electrical system of the heart is affected, there are disturbances in the heart’s rhythm. This condition, known as cardiac dysrhythmia, is when a pacemaker is used. This provides an artificial electrical stimulus so that the heart’s pumping is corrected.
The above is a summary of the two common cardiac devices -pacemaker and stent. While one helps in maintaining the heart’s rhythm, the other ensures the body receives a good blood supply. Depending on the condition, the doctor will choose what needs to be used.