The evolution of the pacemaker of today is due to a number of developments that have made these tiny devices increasingly self-diagnostic and able to adjust to the physiological demands of the human body:

• Development of the corrosion-free lithium battery to power the pacemaker, now often lasting ten or more years.
• Programmable pacemakers with bi-directional telemetry, allowing the physician control of the pacing rate.
• Dual-chamber pacemakers able to sense and pace both atrium and ventricle.
The evolution of the pacemaker of today is due to a number of developments that have made these tiny devices increasingly self-diagnostic and able to adjust to the physiological demands of the human body:

• Development of the corrosion-free lithium battery to power the pacemaker, now often lasting ten or more years.
• Programmable pacemakers with bi-directional telemetry, allowing the physician control of the pacing rate.
• Dual-chamber pacemakers able to sense and pace both atrium and ventricle.

© CHIN 2001

Evolution of the pacemaker

A series of pacemakers from the 1960s to the 1990s (top left to bottom right) demonstrating the remarkable progress in the miniaturization of the pacemaker. Since 1960 the weight of the pacemaker has decreased from 170 to less than 20 grams.

Canadian Heritage Information Network
1965 - 1995
994.007.024a; 994.007.038; 994.007.029; 994.0
© 2008, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.


Pacemakers allow people to live full and active lives. One example of how the pacemaker technology has affected a life is exemplified in the following vignette.

Mr. B is a 68-year-old man who recently retired. Unfortunately, he began to have problems with abrupt episodes of unconsciousness. Without warning, he would suddenly pass out. Over the course of six months, he passed out four times. During his fourth episode he fell down the stairs breaking his ankle.

He came to the hospital was admitted, and observed on a heart monitor. After three hours, he reported to the nurse that he was feeling dizzy. By the time the nurse reached him, he had passed out. The heart tracing was recorded.

Mr. B was roused and his heart rate returned to normal. However, it was clear now that he would require a permanent pacemaker. The procedure was carried out the next morning, and an ECG was recorded.

Mr. B has resumed golfing, gardening, and bought a travel trailer. He traveled across Canada last summer. He continues to feel well and is enjoying life.
Pacemakers allow people to live full and active lives. One example of how the pacemaker technology has affected a life is exemplified in the following vignette.

Mr. B is a 68-year-old man who recently retired. Unfortunately, he began to have problems with abrupt episodes of unconsciousness. Without warning, he would suddenly pass out. Over the course of six months, he passed out four times. During his fourth episode he fell down the stairs breaking his ankle.

He came to the hospital was admitted, and observed on a heart monitor. After three hours, he reported to the nurse that he was feeling dizzy. By the time the nurse reached him, he had passed out. The heart tracing was recorded.

Mr. B was roused and his heart rate returned to normal. However, it was clear now that he would require a permanent pacemaker. The procedure was carried out the next morning, and an ECG was recorded.

Mr. B has resumed golfing, gardening, and bought a travel trailer. He traveled across Canada last summer. He continues to feel well and is enjoying life.

© CHIN 2001

ECG before pacing, ECG after pacing

An electrocardiogram confirming no heartbeat. An electrocardiogram demonstrating a regular heart rate controlled by the pacemaker.

Courtesy of Division of Cardiology, Kingston General Hospital

© CHIN 2001


Learning Objectives

The learner will:

  • Identify and appreciate the way history and culture shape a society’s science and technology
  • Provide examples of how science and technology have influenced the diagnosis and treatment of human illness, and have made medical technology an integral part of our lives
  • Describe scientific and technological developments, past and present, and appreciate their impact on individuals and societies

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