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Adjusting to Life With a Pacemaker

Have you ever had the feeling that your heart skipped a beat? If this is a common occurrence, you could have heart palpitations or even an irregular heartbeat. And you might need a device called a pacemaker to continuously monitor your heart rhythm.

At the Vein, Heart, and Vascular Institute, our skilled team, led by board-certified cardiologist Hesham Fakhri, MD, can set you up with a test to check your heart rhythm and determine if you need a pacemaker

What exactly is a pacemaker?

Your heart is a complex muscle that provides your body with oxygenated blood. You certainly can’t live without your heart, so when problems arise, we can help get things back on track with a pacemaker.

To control your irregular heartbeat, Dr. Fakhri implants either a temporary or permanent pacemaker in your body. The irregular heartbeat can be due to a condition called bradycardia (a slower-than-normal heartbeat). Or it can be the result of a heart attack or other conditions like heart failure. 

A pacemaker contains a pulse generator (including battery) and electrodes that connect to the pulse generator. These electrodes send signals to your heart to control your heartbeat. 

What to expect after pacemaker surgery

Pacemaker surgery is a very simple procedure usually done under local anesthesia. Dr. Fakhri makes an incision at your collarbone and places the pulse generator under your skin. He places an electrode on the right ventricle of your heart, and that electrode is connected to the pulse generator. 

After surgery, Dr. Fakhri makes sure the settings on the pacemaker are correct for your condition. Once you’re home, you’ll need to take it easy for a few weeks so the pacemaker incision heals correctly. Keep an eye out for signs of infection, like redness or swelling. 

Avoid too much physical activity or any strenuous lifting for the first few weeks. Once the incision is healed, you shouldn’t have too many restrictions. You’ll need to have the pacemaker checked regularly, so keep your appointments. 

Living with the device

Once you’ve healed from pacemaker surgery, you can return to most of your normal activities. You may actually forget that you even have it after a while. Travel shouldn’t be an issue at all, and you can continue regular exercise that’s appropriate for your age. 

But you do need to take some precautions once you have the pacemaker.

Be conscious of your cell phone

A cell phone has the potential to interfere with the functioning of your pacemaker if your phone is closer than 6 inches to the device, like in a shirt pocket. As long as you keep your phone farther than that, it shouldn’t be an issue.

Carry an ID card for the pacemaker

Always carry an ID card stating that you have an implanted electrical device. The card lets personnel know that you have the device and that you should avoid anything that could interfere with the functioning of your pacemaker.

Avoid metal detectors

Although travel is OK after you have a pacemaker, avoid metal detectors in the airport. It’s rare, but metal detectors could interfere with your device with prolonged exposure. So don’t stand too close to a metal detector for too long, and show the security staff your ID card.

Tell your doctors that you have the device

Not only does Dr. Fakhri need to check in on you and the device, other providers like your family doctor and dentist should also know about your pacemaker. Certain procedures, like an MRI, can interfere with your pacemaker.

Watch out for power equipment

Stay at least 2 feet from power-generating equipment or transformers. If you work around heavy power equipment, ask Dr. Fakhri to arrange special testing to see if it will affect the pacemaker. And avoid putting any significant pressure over the site of your pacemaker. 

We need to check your pacemaker every few months, but we can do it remotely. The life of the battery is about 10-15 years, after which you need a new pulse generator. 

If you're in need of a pacemaker, and are wondering about what to expect, call one of our two conveniently located offices in Wesley Chapel or Tampa, Florida, to make an appointment. You can also schedule a consultation on our website using our online booking tool.

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