A pacemaker keeps your heart from beating too slowly. It's important to know how this device works and how to keep it working right. Learning a few important facts about pacemakers can help you get the best results from your device.
You may have a device that combines a pacemaker and an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD), which can shock your heart back to a normal rhythm. To learn more about ICDs, see Heart Problems: Living With an ICD.
Some electric devices have a strong electromagnetic field. This field can keep your pacemaker from working right for a short time. These devices are in your home, garage, workplace, and hospital.
Many other devices do not affect how a pacemaker works. You can use these safely when they are in good working condition.
Check with your doctor or the manufacturer of your pacemaker. They can give you a full list of what is safe, what you need to avoid, and what you need to keep a short distance away from your ICD.
Here are some examples.
Devices to avoid
Avoid devices with strong electromagnetic fields, such as:
Devices to be cautious around
Keep your pacemaker at least 2 ft (0.6 m) away from:
Keep your pacemaker at least 12 in. (30 cm) away from:
Keep your pacemaker at least 6 in. (15 cm) away from:
Do not stand near:
Devices that do not affect a pacemaker
Some pacemakers have an alarm system that can tell you when to call your doctor. The alarm does not mean that your pacemaker is not working. It means that your doctor needs to check something on your pacemaker. For example, an alarm might mean that the battery needs to be checked.
Your doctor can tell you what your alarm will sound like or feel like. You might hear beeping. Or you might feel a vibration, like a cell phone vibration.
Call your doctor right away if you hear or feel an alarm.
Many medical tests and procedures won't affect your pacemaker. But some procedures include electromagnetic fields that could affect how your pacemaker works. To be safe:
You can travel safely with a cardiac device. But you'll want to be prepared before you go.
You can drive if you have a pacemaker and you don't have any symptoms such as fainting. But right after you get a pacemaker, your doctor may ask you to not drive for at least a week after the device is implanted. This gives you time to heal.
Pacemakers often are used to improve your ability to exercise. Most people with pacemakers have active lives and can exercise. Talk to your doctor about the type and amount of exercise and other activity you can do.
Most people who have a pacemaker can have an active sex life. After you get a pacemaker implanted, you'll let your chest heal for a short time. If your doctor says that you can exercise and be active, then it's probably safe for you to have sex.
Talk with your doctor if you have any concerns.
As you plan for your future and your end of life, you can include plans for your pacemaker. You can make the decision to turn off your pacemaker as part of the medical treatment that you want at the end of life. You can put this information in your advance directive.
Call your doctor right away if you have symptoms that could mean your device isn't working properly, such as:
Call your doctor right away if you think you have an infection near your device. Signs of an infection include:
Other Works Consulted
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- Baddour LM, et al. (2010). Update on cardiovascular implantable electronic device infections and their management. A scientific statement from the American Heart Association. Circulation, 121(3): 458–477.
- Lampert R, et al. (2010). HRS Expert Consensus Statement on the Management of Cardiovascular Implantable Electronic Devices (CIEDs) in patients nearing end of life or requesting withdrawal of therapy. Heart Rhythm, 7(7): 1008–1026. Available online: http://www.hrsonline.org/Policy/ClinicalGuidelines/upload/ceids_mgmt_eol.pdf.
- Lee S, et al. (2009). Clinically significant magnetic interference of implanted cardiac devices by portable headphones. Heart Rhythm, 6(10): 1432–1436.
- Levine GN, et al. (2012). Sexual activity and cardiovascular disease: A scientific statement from the American Heart Association. Circulation, 125(8): 1058–1072.
- Swerdlow CD, et al. (2015) Pacemakers and implantable cardioverter-defibrillators. In DL Mann et al., eds., Braunwald's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine, 10th ed., vol. 1, pp. 721–742. Philadelphia: Saunders.
- Tjong FVY, Reddy VY (2017). Permanent leadless cardiac pacemaker therapy. Circulation, 135(15): 1458–1470. DOI: 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.116.025037. Accessed March 21, 2018.
- Wilkoff BL, et al. (2008). HRS/EHRA expert consensus on the monitoring of cardiovascular implantable electronic devices (CIEDS): Description of techniques, indications, personnel, frequency, and ethical considerations. Heart Rhythm, 5(6): 907–925. Available online: http://www.hrsonline.org/Practice-Guidance/Clinical-Guidelines-Documents/HRS-EHRA-Expert-Consensus-on-the-Monitoring-of-Cardiovascular-Implantable-Electronic-Devices/2008-Monitoring-of-CIEDs.
- Zipes DP, et al. (2015). Eligibility and disqualification recommendations for competitive athletes with cardiovascular abnormalities: Task Force 9: Arrhythmias and conduction defects: A scientific statement from the American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology. Circulation, 132(22): e315–e325. DOI: 10.1161/CIR.0000000000000245. Accessed April 7, 2017.
Current as of: April 29, 2021
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