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Maintain Your Rhythm: Pacemaker vs. Defibrillator

By DuPage Medical Group Cardiac Electrophysiology

What’s the difference? Is there a difference? What do they do? Your most common questions and concerns about pacemakers and defibrillators answered.


A pacemaker controls abnormal heart rhythm and helps your heart beat more regularly. It is a small device that is inserted underneath your skin on your chest, just under your collarbone, connected to your heart with tiny wires. People who need a pacemaker usually have a heartbeat that is too slow. Your pacemaker will work only if needed. For example, if your heart begins to beat slowly, your pacemaker will send off tiny electrical signals that you can’t feel to correct your heartbeat

Most people with a pacemaker live full lives. You can participate in physical activities if your doctor says it’s okay.


Also known as an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD), a defibrillator is a preventive device for people who have known heart problems. Like a pacemaker, it is a small device inserted underneath your skin. An ICD keeps track of your heart beat and if it senses a very rapid, often dangerous pattern, it will distribute a small shock to help correct the problem. Most people who need an ICD are those prone to sudden cardiac arrest.

Like a pacemaker, most people with an ICD live full lives. You can participate in physical activities, but it is best to check with your doctor about what level of activity and what kinds of activities are best for your health. 

Topics and Subtopics: Heart Health

Learn more about:
Cardiac Electrophysiology
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