Pacemaker Implantation, Recovery & Misconceptions
What is a Pacemaker? What is Pacemaker Implantation or Pacemaker Surgery?
Pacemaker is a small instrument, its size being no bigger than a 5 rupee coin. The instrument transmits electrical impulses to the heart so that it keeps the heart beating at regular speed. It consists of two main parts, an electric pulse generator and electrodes that transmit the pulses to the heart.
A Pacemaker Surgery is done to implant a pacemaker to help control the heartbeat.
Who needs a Pacemaker?
Pacemaker is a device required by cardiac patients to correct problems of irregular heartbeat and sick sinus syndrome. Additionally, if they have been prescribed Beta blocker; if their brains don’t get enough blood flow, if they have long QT syndrome or have had a heart transplant or suffer from certain coronary heart diseases- among a few other reasons; they would be advised a pacemaker implantation. Modern day Pacemakers are also implanted for low heart rate- 35 or less, if there is a conduction defect, ejection fraction is low, or for those with ischemic arteries.
Some of the common signs pointing towards the need for a pacemaker include,
- Inability to Exercise
- Shortness of Breath
How is Pacemaker Implantation done?
Pacemaker is implanted through a surgical procedure, which can be performed under both general and local anesthesia. It is a quick procedure with a short recovery time.
Even though it is not considered a serious procedure with complications, one should know how the implantation works. A small battery is implanted over the right or left side of chest by making a small incision of 3 cm. Then the battery and the wire are inserted inside and connected to the heart. The incision is then sutured- the whole procedure taking about 45 minutes to an hour and a half.
What is the recovery period? What precautions to take after pacemaker implantation?
A few days after the surgery, the patient should expect some pain, swelling, or tenderness in the area where the incision was made and where the pacemaker has been placed. The doctor would give medicines to deal with the pain, and one should keep in mind to not take any more medicines without consulting the doctor.
The first thing to remember after one has a pacemaker implanted, is that it needs moderating by the cardiologist every 3-6 months. This will also help the doctor understand whenever a battery change is required(on an average pacemaker batteries last for 5 to 8 years). In rare cases, the pacemaker sometimes malfunctions (it may not be able to control the heartbeat), or moves out of position- which may require a replacement.
The most important precaution to be taken is to limit wide movements of the arm on which pacemaker is implanted for about a month. The patient should also avoid running, climbing or hard activity for 12 weeks. Ideally, the patient should opt for moderate intensity exercise like bicycling.
Misconceptions about Pacemaker Implantation
Many people have misconceptions about pacemakers and what they can and cannot do after pacemaker implantation. Here are Some Common Myths:
- The patient doesn’t need heart medications after the installation of the pacemaker- False
- The patient cannot have a heart attack if he/she has a pacemaker- False (one can still have heart blockages)
- The patient cannot use household appliances, mobile, microwave, etc. – False
While old pacemakers would’ve posed a threat to the health if one used remotes, mobile phones, microwave etc. this is not true for the new ones. The only precaution to be taken in this regard is to avoid high voltage machines with a strong magnetic field like large transformers, etc.
If your cardiologist advises you to have a pacemaker installed, ask him or her questions about the procedure and take a second opinion if required.
- Sex lifewill not be affected after implantation
- Car, trains and other vehicles pose no threat to the patient’s health after the procedure
- Avoid putting pressure on the area where the pacemaker has been implanted
- Contact your cardiologist immediately if you feel dizzy or have difficulty breathing.
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