Home > Health Library > Heart Problems: Living With a Pacemaker
A 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.
When you have a pacemaker, it's important to avoid strong magnetic
and electrical fields. The lists below 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.
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:
Use with caution:
Safe to use:
Most medical tests and procedures won't affect your pacemaker,
except for MRI, which uses strong magnets. To be safe:
You can travel safely with a cardiac device. But you'll want to be prepared before you go.
You 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.
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.
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 concerns.
As you 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.
Call your doctor right away if you have symptoms that could mean your device isn't working properly, such as:
Call your doctor right away if you think you have an infection near your device. Signs of an infection include:
Other Works Consulted
Akoum NW, et al. (2008). Pacemaker therapy. In EG Nabel, ed., ACP Medicine, section 1, chap. 7. Hamilton, ON: BC Decker.
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.
Lampert 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.
Lee S, et al. (2009). Clinically significant magnetic interference of implanted cardiac devices by portable headphones. Heart Rhythm, 6(10): 1432–1436.
Levine GN, et al. (2012). Sexual activity and cardiovascular disease: A scientific statement from the American Heart Association. Circulation, 125(8): 1058–1072.
Sears SF, et al. (2005). How to respond to an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator shock. Circulation, 111(23): e380–e382.
Swerdlow CD, et al. (2012). Pacemakers and implantable cardioverter-defibrillators. In RO Bonow et al., eds., Braunwald's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine, 9th ed., vol. 1, pp. 745–770. 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
June 12, 2013
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Rakesh K. Pai, MD, FACC - Cardiology, Electrophysiology
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