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A permanent pacemaker sends electrical signals to start or regulate a slow heartbeat. Pacemakers may be used to make the heart beat if the heart's natural pacemaker (the SA node) is not functioning properly and has developed an abnormally slow heart rate or rhythm, or if the electrical pathways are blocked.

An implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) is slightly larger. It has a generator, one or more leads, and an electrode for each lead. These components work very much like a pacemaker. However, the ICD is designed to deliver two levels of electrical energy: a low energy shock that can convert a beating heart that is in an abnormal rhythm back to a normal heartbeat, and a high energy shock that is delivered only if the arrhythmia is so severe that the heart is only quivering instead of beating.

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