What to Expect When Getting a Pacemaker

If you’re among the millions of people in the US who have an arrhythmia, which is the term used to describe abnormal heartbeats, you’ve likely explored the benefits of a pacemaker. Each year, around 200,000 Americans have pacemakers implanted to be able to regulate moderate-to-severe arrhythmias and avoid potentially life-threatening cardiac complications.

At Advanced Cardiovascular Specialists, Inc., our team of highly qualified heart health experts understands the invaluable role that a pacemaker can play in a person’s health, which is why we offer pacemaker implantation services.

To give you a better idea of what to expect, here’s a look at how we implant your pacemaker and what your life will look like afterward.

Getting your pacemaker

If you're having us implant a pacemaker, you should plan on spending at least 4 hours in the hospital or our outpatient facility. When you arrive, we’ll get you settled in and start an IV, which we use to sedate you during your procedure. In most cases, we don’t use general anesthesia for this procedure, so expect to be sleepy, but not asleep.

Once you’re relaxed, we apply a numbing agent to your chest and make a very small incision through which we thread a lead(s) into your vein. Using X-ray guidance, we direct the leads into the appropriate chambers of your heart, and then we insert the generator for the pacemaker under your skin.

Once we’re finished, we test the leads to establish the right pacing sequence and then connect the leads to the pacemaker. (Bear in mind, we can still program the pacemaker after your procedure if the settings aren’t quite right.)

With everything in place, all you need to do is relax and rest for a few hours while we monitor you. Occasionally, a few patients will need to spend the night in the hospital. Then, if everything checks out, you’re free to return home.

Life after implanting a pacemaker

Though we supply you with complete aftercare instructions, we will outline some of the highlights here to give you an idea about recovery.

You should expect to take it easy for a few days after your pacemaker implantation to allow time for your heart to get used to the outside control and for your incision site to heal properly. In most cases, your pacemaker is fully integrated by your body in about eight weeks. In the interim, we advise you not to raise your arm that is on the same side of the pacemaker, over your head.

Given this limitation, we encourage you to ramp up your activity slowly.

Speak with your physician about when you are able to get into the water — whether it’s in the shower or at the beach.

The one area where you do need to exercise caution moving forward is being around high-powered magnets or electrical fields (think MRI). As well, if you like to travel, your pacemaker may set off the metal detector, so be sure to carry a card that says you have the implant. The airport security agent could use a metal detector instead of having you walk through a metal detector.

Moving forward, we perform periodic checks of your pacemaker to make any necessary tweaks and to ensure that the electrodes and batteries are functioning as they should. Your job is to enjoy the new peace of mind that comes with a heart that’s beating regularly and strongly.

If you have more questions about getting a pacemaker, please contact our office in Mountain View, California.

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