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A pacemaker is a battery-operated device implanted in the chest that generates electrical pulses to the heart to make it beat in a regular rhythm. Most pacemakers are designed to monitor the heart's natural beating and to activate only when required.

Although sophisticated electronic equipment, pacemakers are small and durable (battery life is generally over five years). They are programmable to match the needs of the patient; programming is accomplished through radio signals rather than wires. Similarly, this radio connection can be used to monitor the performance of the pacemaker and determine when the battery is running low.

Replacing the battery is a relatively simple procedure: the entire pacemaker is removed and replaced. The wires that deliver the pulse to the heart are not removed, however, and are simply plugged into the new pacemaker before the incision is closed.

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