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.
Avoid strong magnetic and electrical
fields. These can keep your device from working right.
Most office equipment
and home appliances are safe to use. Learn which things you should use with caution
and which you should stay away from.
Be sure that any doctor, dentist, or
other health professional you see knows that you have a pacemaker.
carry a card in your wallet that tells what kind of device you have. Wear medical
alert jewelry that says you have a pacemaker.
Have your pacemaker checked
regularly to make sure it is working right.
How do you get the best results
from a pacemaker?
When you have a pacemaker, it's important to avoid strong
magnetic and electrical fields. The lists below give some safety guidelines for pacemakers
and ICDs. They show some electrical and magnetic sources and how they may affect your
pacemaker. For best results, follow these guidelines. These safety tips also apply
to devices that combine an ICD and a pacemaker. If you have questions, check with
Your doctor or the manufacturer of your pacemaker can give you
a full list of things that you need to avoid and things that are safe to use.
Stay away from
CB or ham radios
power lines. Stay at least25 ft (7.5 m)away.
MRI machines, unless you have a device that
is safe in an MRI machine. An MRI uses a magnetic field and pulses of radio wave energy
to make pictures of organs and structures inside the body.
Use with caution
Do not carry a cell phone in a
pocket directly over the pacemaker or ICD.
Hold the phone to the ear on the
side away from your device.
Keep a phone at least 6
in. (15 cm) away from the pacemaker or ICD.
MP3 player headphones:
Do not keep headphones in a chest pocket.
Do not drape headphones
over your chest.
Security or anti-theft detectors (metal detectors):
Walk through the detector at a normal pace.
Don't stand near or lean
against the gates or archway.
Keep the following devices at least12 in. (30.5 cm) away from the pacemaker or ICD:
Battery-powered cordless power tools
Industrial power generators
wands used at airports
Radio transmitters (including
those used in toys)
Safe to use
and bathroom equipment:
Bathroom appliances (electric razors, curling irons,
and hair dryers)
Kitchen appliances (such as toasters, blenders, electric
can openers, and refrigerators)
Microwave, gas, and electric ovens
Electric tools (such as drills and table saws)
and garden equipment (such as mowers and leaf blowers)
Heating pads and electric
Washing machines and dryers
Phones (land-line phones including
TVs, VCRs, CD players, DVD players
Call your doctor if an alarm goes off
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.
your doctor right away if you hear or feel an alarm.
Having medical tests and procedures
Most medical tests and procedures won't
affect your pacemaker, except for MRI, which uses strong magnets. To be safe:
your doctors, dentists, and other health professionals know that you have a pacemaker
before you have any test, procedure, or surgery.
Have your dentist talk to
your doctor before you have any dental work or surgery.
If you need physical
therapy, have the therapist contact your doctor before using ultrasound, heat therapy,
or electrical stimulation.
can travel safely with a cardiac device. But you'll want to be prepared before you
Bring a list of the names and phone numbers of your doctors.
your cardiac device identification card with you.
Know what to do when going
through airport security.
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 will likely ask you to not drive
for at least a week after the device is implanted. This gives you time to heal.
Letting others know
Carry a pacemaker identification
card with you at all times. The card should include manufacturer information and the
model number. Your doctor can give you an ID card.
Wear medical alert jewelry
stating that you have a pacemaker. You can buy this at most drugstores or online.
Go to all your appointments
with your doctor to check your pacemaker. In between checkups, you will probably send information
from your pacemaker to your doctor through a phone line or the Internet. You might
do this manually or your device might do it automatically.
If you take heart
rhythm medicines, take them as prescribed. The medicines work with your pacemaker
to help your heart keep a steady rhythm.
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.
You may need to limit your
activity if you have an irregular heart rate caused by heart failure or another heart
Talk with your doctor about what type and level of exercise is safe
for you. You may choose to avoid contact sports, such as soccer or basketball, because
the device can be damaged. Sports such as swimming, running, walking, tennis, golf,
and bicycling are safer.
If you want to do strength-training exercises, ask
your doctor or a fitness trainer to suggest ones that are safe for someone who has
a pacemaker. Some exercises might put too much strain on your device.
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
Planning for the future
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.
When to call a doctor
Call your doctor right away if you have symptoms
that could mean your device isn't working properly, such as:
is very fast or slow, skipping, or fluttering.
You feel dizzy, lightheaded,
You have shortness of breath that is new or getting worse.
your doctor right away if you think you have an infection near your device. Signs
of an infection include:
Changes in the skin around your device, such as
swelling, warmth, redness, and pain.
An unexplained fever.
Other Works Consulted
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.
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.
S, et al. (2009). Clinically significant magnetic interference of implanted cardiac
devices by portable headphones. Heart Rhythm, 6(10): 1432-1436.
et al. (2012). Sexual activity and cardiovascular disease: A scientific statement
from the American Heart Association. Circulation, 125(8): 1058-1072.
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.
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.
ByHealthwise Staff Primary
Medical ReviewerE. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal
Medicine Martin J. Gabica, MD - Family Medicine Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine Elizabeth
T. Russo, MD - Internal Medicine Adam Husney,
MD - Family Medicine Specialist Medical ReviewerJohn M. Miller, MD, FACC - Cardiology, Electrophysiology
This information does not replace the advice of a doctor.
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