Pacemaker Surgery | MedStar Health

Helping control abnormal heart rhythms

A pacemaker is a small device implanted in your chest that helps control various types of heart rhythm disorders. Traditional pacemakers, which weigh about an ounce, include a pulse generator that produces electrical energy to control heartbeats. That energy travels along one or more leads, which are connected to the heart’s muscle. The electrical energy causes the heart to beat.

Our Electrophysiology program is the mid-Atlantic region’s leading referral program for patients with heart rhythm disorders. Our advanced lab lets us treat and manage even the most complex cases.

What to expect during implantation

Graphic of a male torso with a pacemaker in the heart

Depending on your condition, you may be a candidate for a leadless pacemaker, which goes directly into the heart. Learn more about leadless pacemakers.

If you’re receiving a traditional pacemaker, you and your doctor will discuss any medications you take and whether you should keep taking them prior to the procedure. On the day of your procedure, you’ll receive an IV line so we can give you medication. We’ll clean your chest and shave it if necessary. You’ll receive local anesthesia to numb the surgical area, along with a sedative to help you relax.

The doctor will make an incision on your chest. The doctor will then put the lead or leads in place in your heart and connect them to the pulse generator, which the doctor will implant in a pocket of skin (usually in the upper chest). We’ll test your pacemaker to make sure it’s working properly.

The procedure usually lasts a few hours. Afterward, you’ll need to tell medical personnel, airport security professionals, and others in areas with electromagnetic energy that you have a pacemaker. Your doctor will go over specific details with you. It’s also a good idea to carry a card with you stating that you have a pacemaker.


Arrhythmia (heart rhythm disorders)

An arrhythmia is an abnormal or irregular heartbeat caused by a disturbance in the electrical impulses that coordinate your heart rate. This can cause your heart to beat too fast, too slow, or irregularly.

Atrial fibrillation (AFib)

Atrial fibrillation, or AFib, is a type of arrhythmia (abnormal heartbeat) in which the heart’s two upper chambers do not beat in sync with the two lower chambers.


Bradycardia is a type of abnormal heart rhythm (arrhythmia) in which the heart beats slower than 60 times a minute.

Fainting (syncope)

Syncope, commonly called fainting, is a temporary loss of consciousness caused by a drop in blood flow to the brain.

Heart block

Heart block, also known as atrioventricular (AV) block, is a partial or total blockage of the electrical signal that controls the heartbeat.

Sarcoidosis (Cardiac)

Sarcoidosis causes lumps to form in your heart, lungs, or lymph nodes and can damage these organs.

Short QT syndrome (SQTS)

Short QT syndrome is a disruption of the heart’s electrical activity that causes the recharge time between heartbeats to become too short.

Sick sinus syndrome

Sick sinus syndrome is a malfunction of the heart’s sinus node, which controls heart rhythms. This causes the heart to beat too quickly or too slowly or leads to long pauses between heartbeats.


Tachycardia is a type of abnormal heart rhythm in which the heart beats much faster than it should while a person is at rest.

Tachycardia-bradycardia syndrome

Tachy-brady syndrome is a type of irregular heartbeat in which the heart fluctuates between beating too quickly and too slowly.


Cardiac Catheterization

Cardiac catheterization is a minimally invasive way to diagnose and treat a variety of heart and vascular conditions by guiding thin, flexible tubes called catheters through blood vessels to problem areas.


An echocardiogram uses high-frequency sound waves to create images of your heart.

Electrocardiogram (ECG)

An electrocardiogram, also known as an ECG, measures the heart’s electrical activity.

Electrophysiology testing

Electrophysiology testing is used to evaluate the cause and location of an abnormal heartbeat (known as an arrhythmia).

Event monitors

An event monitor is a small device that records the heart’s electrical activity. It’s similar to an electrocardiogram, but where an electrocardiogram takes place over a few minutes, an event monitor measures heart rhythms over a much longer time.

Holter monitors

A Holter monitor is a small device that records the heart’s electrical activity. It’s similar to an electrocardiogram, but whereas an electrocardiogram records over a few minutes, a Holter monitor records over the course of a day or two.

Tilt table test

Tilt table testing allows your doctor to determine the cause of explained fainting while monitoring changes in your blood pressure and heart rate while tilted at different angles.

Stress Tests

Stress tests are used to assess how your heart works during physical activity. There are several types of stress tests, including treadmill or bike stress tests, nuclear stress tests, stress echocardiograms, and chemically induced stress tests.

Our locations

Distance from Change locationEnter your location

MedStar Good Samaritan Hospital

5601 Loch Raven Blvd.
Baltimore, MD 21239

MedStar Southern Maryland Hospital Center

7503 Surratts Rd.
Clinton, MD 20735

MedStar Union Memorial Hospital

201 E. University Pkwy.
Baltimore, MD 21218

MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center

9000 Franklin Square Dr.
Baltimore, MD 21237

MedStar St Mary's Hospital

25500 Point Lookout Rd.
Leonardtown, MD 20650

MedStar Montgomery Medical Center

18101 Prince Philip Dr.
Olney, MD 20832

MedStar Washington Hospital Center

110 Irving St. NW
Washington, DC 20010

MedStar Georgetown University Hospital

3800 Reservoir Rd. NW
Washington, DC, 20007

Ask MedStar Heart & Vascular Institute

Have general questions for our heart and vascular program? Email us at If you have clinically-specific questions, please contact your physician’s office.