You had a pacemaker placed in your chest to help your heart beat properly.
Most pacemakers have only one or two wires that go to the heart. These wires stimulate the right or left side of the heart when the heartbeat gets too slow.
Some pacemakers also can deliver electric shocks to the heart that can stop life-threatening arrhythmias (irregular heartbeats). This is called a "cardioverter defibrillator."
You should know what type of pacemaker you have.
You will be given a card to keep in your wallet.
You should wear a medic alert bracelet or necklace that says you have a pacemaker. In a medical emergency, health care workers taking care of you should know you have a pacemaker.
Most machines and devices will not interfere with your pacemaker. But some with strong magnetic fields may. Always ask your doctor or nurse about any specific device that you need to avoid. Do not put a magnet near your pacemaker.
Most appliances in your home are safe to be around. This includes your refrigerator, washer, dryer, toaster, blender, computers and fax machines, hair dryer, stove, CD player, remote controls, and microwave.
You should keep several devices at least 12 inches away from the site where the pacemaker is placed under your skin. These include:
Tell all health care providers that you have a pacemaker before any tests are done.
Some medical equipment may interfere with your pacemaker.
Stay away from large motors, generators, and equipment. Do not lean over the open hood of a car that is running. Also stay away from:
If you have a cell phone:
Be careful around metal detectors and security wands.
After any operation, have your doctor check your pacemaker.
You should be able to do normal activities in 3 - 4 days.
For 2 - 3 weeks, do not do these things with the arm on the side of your body where the pacemaker was placed:
Do not lift this arm above your shoulder for 6 weeks. Do not wear clothes that rub on the wound for 2 or 3 weeks. Keep your incision completely dry for 4 - 5 days. Afterward, you may take a shower and then pat it dry. Always wash your hands before touching the wound.
Your doctor or nurse will tell you how often they will need to check your pacemaker. Most times, it will be every 6 months to a year. The exam will take about 15 - 30 minutes.
The batteries in your pacemaker should last 6 - 15 years. Regular checkups can detect if the battery is wearing down or if there are any problems with the leads (wires). Your doctor will change the generator along with the battery when the battery gets low.
Call your doctor if:
Cardiac pacemaker implantation - discharge; Artificial pacemaker - discharge; Permanent pacemaker - discharge; Internal pacemaker - discharge; Cardiac resynchronization therapy - discharge; CRT - discharge; Biventricular pacemaker - discharge
Swerdlow CD, Hayes DL, Zipes DP. Pacemakers and implantable cardioverter-defibrillators. In: Libby P, Bonow RO, Mann DL, Zipes DP. Libby: Braunwald's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine. 9th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 38.
Updated by: Michael A. Chen, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Division of Cardiology, Harborview Medical Center, University of Washington Medical School, Seattle, Washington. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.
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