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Source of rhythmic electrical impulses that trigger heart contractions. In the heart's electrical system, impulses generated at a natural pacemaker are conducted to the atria and ventricles. Heart surgery or certain diseases can interrupt conduction (heart block), requiring use of a temporary or permanent artificial pacemaker. A small electrode attached to an electric generator outside the body is threaded through a vein into the heart. The generator, inserted beneath the skin, produces regular pulses of electric charge to maintain the heartbeat. Permanent pacemakers can also be implanted on the heart's surface.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on pacemaker, visit Britannica.com.