A pacemaker is a small device that prevents the heart from beating too slowly. The device stimulates the heart muscle when the heart rate is too slow or altogether absent.

Over time pacemakers have become smaller and more durable. Inova Schar Heart and Vascular was the first facility in Northern Virginia to offer "leadless" pacemakers (i.e., without wires) in addition to traditional pacemakers with at least one wire that goes through the vein to the inside of the heart.

Types of Pacemakers - Which is Right for Me? 

Inova Schar Heart and Vascular specialists will determine the best type of pacemaker for you based on your medical history and ensure that it is programmed to your specific needs. While leadless pacemakers offer a clear advance in technology, they are not suitable in all cases.

Micra is the first leadless pacemaker to obtain FDA approval. Manufactured by Medtronic, this device is completely self-contained within the heart. It is also 93% smaller than traditional pacemakers. As it is delivered via catheter directly into the right ventricle of the heart, there is no chest scar, no bump and results are showing fewer complications. It also offers a 12-year battery longevity.


Traditional pacemakers consist of a pulse generator attached to between one and three leads (wires) that are inserted within the heart. The pulse generator contains a battery and a microchip. The battery (most commonly lithium-iodide) typically has a life span of 6-10 years depending on its use. The leads are inserted under the skin via veins into the heart's upper chamber (atrium) or lower chamber (ventricle). The procedure takes 1-2 hours to complete.

Biventricular pacemakers coordinate contractions of the left and right chambers of the ventricles, creating heart resynchronization. Biventricular pacemakers are reserved for patients with more severe symptoms of heart failure.

Inova's Role in Technological Innovation 

Inova participated in pre-market evaluation for the FDA approval of leadless pacemaker technology and continually engages with industry partners in clinical trials to develop new cardiac-related devices and medications.

Conditions Treated with a Pacemaker

Inova Schar Heart and Vascular physicians have the expertise to identify which patients would benefit from pacemakers such as those with the following conditions:

  • A symptomatic and slow heart rate, usually less than 60 beats per minute
  • Atrial fibrillation with a slow heart rate
  • Heart failure
  • Inability to increase the heart rate to match a level of exercise
  • Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) 
  • Fainting spells

Our Team

Inova Schar Heart and Vascular is one of the country's largest and most experienced centers offering heart rhythm devices and fully equipped electrophysiology labs. Our knowledgeable physicians implant more than a thousand pacemakers each year.