What is a pacemaker?
A pacemaker is an electronic device that is implanted surgically in the body to regulate the heartbeats. For an individual who has undergone such a surgery, it is essential to follow some precautions in order to avoid complications. A pacemaker improves the heart rate and ensures smooth blood circulation. This medical device is powered by a battery and connected to the heart with the help of circuits and wires. It is usually recommended by doctors for individuals whose heart has weakened and is unable to perform its function properly. The pacemaker procedure is minimally invasive in nature and is usually done under local anaesthesia. After the surgery, the cardiologist may advice the patient to take necessary precautions, so as not to disrupt the working of the pacemaker.
Pacemaker precautions after surgery
The pacemaker generates electric impulses, in the same way sinoatrial node does in a healthy heart, to stabilize the heartbeats. This surgery is mainly undergone by patients who have suffered a stroke, heart attack, atherosclerosis, etc. These disorders can weaken the heart muscles and hamper blood circulation, which can have life-threatening consequences. To address the condition, the pacemaker is fitted near the heart to improve its pumping. Once the surgery is over, you are expected to stay in the hospital, where your condition is monitored round-the-clock, before you are discharged. After the surgery, the cardiologist will advise you to follow a set of instructions, regarding the post surgical care of the wound, diet, lifestyle changes, etc. Routine follow-up sessions with the cardiologist will be helpful, to assess the working of the pacemaker. Here are some of the precautionary measures you are expected to take, following a pacemaker implantation.
Other precautionary measures related to pacemaker implantation
- There are chances of the surgical wound getting infected due to various reasons. Lack of proper wound dressing, unhygienic conditions, pathogens, etc., can trigger infection and may also lead to other complications. To avoid these, periodical dressing of the surgical wound, proper medication and diet restrictions should be followed.
- Muscle aches or chest pain may be experienced at the site of implantation. This is because the body needs time to get attuned to the device. In case, the pain is unbearable, you can get in touch with your cardiac surgeon who may prescribe pain relievers like acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
- Avoid activities that involve too much pulling, pushing or straining, at least for 1 to 3 months post surgery. Totally abstain from strenuous activities like lifting heavy objects, vigorous exercise, full-contact sports, and heavy physical work, which can put a strain on your heart.
- Unnecessary lifting of hands beyond shoulder level should also be restricted, as it may be strenuous for the heart. Practising these tips will help in speeding up the recovery process.
- Though the pacemaker has a long battery life (approximately 5 to 15 years), it is essential to keep a routine check on its working. A replacement of the battery and generator may be required, every seven years, to ensure its proper functioning. The cardiac surgeon, depending on the situation, may decide to perform a surgery to replace the pacemaker you are carrying.
It is quite unlikely for the pacemaker to cease functioning. However, when exposed to electrical interference, you may have to follow a few guidelines to make sure it is working properly. Apart from the above mentioned safety tips while living with a pacemaker
, here are a few more which should not be overlooked.
- A pacemaker is made of metal, which can trigger alarms in metal detectors and scanners. So, if you are going through security checks, at the airport or any other place, you are sure to trigger the alarms. To avoid any such situation, always carry an ID card (pacemaker card), normally issued by your doctor or the hospital where you've undergone the surgery, stating your condition.
- Though cell phones are relatively safe to use while having a pacemaker, you have to make sure that you don't carry mobile phone in the pocket directly over the site of the implanted device. This is because the waves emitted by the phone can interfere with the pacemaker. Hence, it is advisable to keep the cell phones (either on or switched off) at least six to seven inches away from the pacemaker.
- Strong magnetic fields should also be avoided by a person fitted with a pacemaker. Therefore it is essential to notify the medical practitioner before undergoing scans (MRI scan, X-ray, therapeutic radiation), as waves emitted by these medical devices can affect the pacemaker's circuits and lead to its malfunctioning.
- Extended exposure to electromagnetic fields can hamper the working of the pacemaker. An individual working with heavy electrical equipment, live wires and industrial welders should take proper caution when working with these equipments if he is implanted with a pacemaker. Too much proximity with these devices can disrupt the signals and stall the working of the pacemaker temporarily.
These were some of the pacemaker precautions that a patient is expected to follow. There are times when the pacemaker may malfunction, a situation which may produce symptoms like unexplained fatigue, excess sweating
, episodes of dizziness, arrhythmia, feeling light-headed, etc. In such an instance get in touch with your cardiologist
for prompt medical intervention and get the pacemaker tested.