What is a Permanent Pacemaker?
The pacemaker is an electronic device that continuously monitors your heart rhythm and prevents it from beating too slowly. There are two parts of a pacemaker, the generator (battery and electronic microchip) and the electrodes. The battery is usually placed under the skin beneath the collarbone on one or other side of the body and the electrodes pass through a nearby vein into the appropriate part of the heart that requires stimulation via electrical impulses transmitted by the electrodes.This makes your heart beat consistently, and the battery lasts an average of eight years.
You are not usually placed under a general anaesthetic for a Pacemaker implantation but you should not eat or drink anything for six hours before your procedure. Local anaesthetic will be used at the site of the insertion. Diabetics should talk to your cardiologist about your food and medication intake. Other medications, especially blood thinning medications, may need to be ceased prior to the procedure. You may have the area of the implantation shaved prior to implantation to reduce the chance of infection.
New pacemaker implants require one nights stay in hospital and the pacemaker is checked by a technician the next day prior to discharge. Simple generator replacements may be done as a day case.
Post Implantation Activities
Since it takes a few weeks for the pacemaker electrodes to firmly attach themselves inside the heart, it is recommended that you limit arm movement on the side of the pacemaker implantation to below shoulder activities for the first two weeks.
You cannot drive a motor vehicle for two weeks after the implantation of a pacemaker. These restrictions do not usually apply to a simple generator change.
Any electrical appliance at home that is in good working order is safe to use with your pacemaker. However caution should be exercised with strong magnetic fields (eg. arc welding) or unshielded ignition systems particularly if your heart beat is dependent on the pacemaker function for most of the time. Mobile phones may be used on the opposite side of the body to the pacemaker.
Identification and travel
You will receive a temporary pacemaker identification card before leaving the hospital, which will be replaced by a permanent laminated card in due course. Pacemakers may set off security devices in airports and you should show your card to security rather than pass through the security devices, so that you can have an appropriate scan performed.