Pacemaker vs. Defibrillator: Heart Hardware

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Difference between Pacemaker and Defibrillator

Heart rhythm problems are nothing to take lightly, since they can give rise to a number of serious complications that could be potentially deadly. Two devices frequently used to address such health issues are the pacemaker and defibrillator, and it is these two that we compare in this revealing article.


A pacemaker is a device meant for placement within the chest or the abdomen. Its basic purpose is to control abnormal heart rhythms by utilizing electrical pulses that encourage the heart to return to a normal beating rate.

A defibrillator is a machine that is used to direct electric current through two paddles that are placed over the chest of a heart attack victim. There are also smaller defibrillators currently in use, and they are often seen in schools, gyms, and exercise facilities. One type of defibrillator–the AED–is even small enough to fit into a lunchbox-sized case.


The basic function of a pacemaker is to keep the heart running at the proper rate, which is important in cases wherein the natural pacemaker of the heart isn't going fast enough. This is also important when the electrical conduction system of the heart is blocked. Most modern pacemakers can be programmed to provide the proper rate for specific patients. There are also devices that combine a pacemaker and a defibrillator in one device meant for surgical implantation. Some models even have several electrodes that stimulate different areas of the heart, enhancing synchronization of the different sections.

When a person suffers a heart attack, the blockage in the arteries typically causes severe chest pains, although the patient will usually remain conscious. With SCA however, the victim will almost certainly become unconsciousness. In such a scenario, it is ventricular fibrillation or the quivering of the heart that causes SCA, since this keeps the heart from pumping blood efficiently. This is where the defibrillator comes in useful.


Many of the pacemakers available today serve more than one function. The simplest models basically just monitor the rhythm of the heart, and when it detects a lapse in the heartbeat pattern, it will send a short low voltage pulse into ventricle of the heart. This will continues as needed. More advanced pacemakers can even monitor and stimulate the atrial and ventricular chambers of the heart independently.

A defibrillator utilizes two pads that are connected by wires, with one pad being placed over the heart and the other placed a few inches away on the chest. After making sure that no one is touching the victim, the pads are placed into position, and an electrical current is sent to the heart of the patient. The heart rhythm of the patient will then be checked in order to determine if a second shock is necessary. These machines are generally easy to use and often come with instructions, although some training would still be idea.

Similarities and Differences


  • A device meant for placement in the chest or the abdomen
  • Purpose is to control abnormal heart rhythms by the use of electrical pulses


  • Used to direct electric current through two paddles placed over the chest of a heart attack victim
  • Encourages the heart to pump blood efficiently


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