- Will I have a scar after receiving a pacemaker?
- Will I be able to feel the device after it is implanted?
- What post-surgery support will be available to me?
- How long will my pacemaker last?
- What happens when my pacemaker runs out of battery?
- Will I be able to resume my normal activities after receiving a pacemaker? Is there anything I should avoid?
It depends on the type of device you receive. Traditional pacemakers are implanted in the upper chest, under the skin just below the collar bone. This procedure requires a surgical “pocket” under the skin, which can leave a scar and bump visible to the patient.
Leadless pacemakers are implanted directly into the heart through a minimally invasive procedure. Your doctor will insert a straw-like catheter into a vein in your upper thigh and use the catheter to move the device into the right ventricle of your heart. The catheter is then removed. Because leadless devices are very small and implanted inside the heart, there is no need for an incision in the chest, and therefore no visible chest scar or bump.
Traditional pacemakers can be seen and felt under the skin, just below the collar bone. Leadless pacemakers are small enough to be implanted directly into the heart, making them cosmetically invisible after implantation with no bump or chest scar.
Your hospital may offer patient support services following your implantation, but there are many resources available through patient advocacy organizations. For instance, Mended Hearts, the largest peer-to-peer heart support network in the world, offers resources and support groups for patients following any kind of heart procedure. Visit MendedHearts.org to learn more.
The battery life of a pacemaker will vary based on the device you receive and how much it is used. For instance, leadless pacemakers on average can last between 8–13 years. Traditional pacemaker batteries can last anywhere between 13–15 years — though this varies by device. Your doctor should notify you when you need a new pacemaker.
Your doctor will alert you when the battery is starting to run low. If you have a traditional pacemaker, your doctor will remove the old device and replace it with a new one. In some cases, you may be eligible for a leadless pacemaker at the time of replacement, so it’s important to ask your doctor if that’s an option. If you already have a leadless pacemaker, the original device may be left inside the heart and a new device inserted alongside it.
Will I be able to resume my normal activities after receiving a pacemaker? Is there anything I should avoid?
You should be able to resume most of your usual activities after recovering from the implant procedure. However, some restrictions may vary depending on the type of device you receive and the nature of your heart condition. It’s important to discuss your activity and lifestyle goals with your doctor prior to your procedure to ensure the device you receive is most appropriate for your needs.
There are some household items — particularly those with electromagnetic fields — that may temporarily affect the normal function of your pacemaker within a certain distance. Your doctor can provide a list of these items prior to your procedure. You can also check out this Electromagnetic Compatibility Guide for helpful information.
Yes. Given the short duration of security screening, it is unlikely your pacemaker will be affected by metal detectors or full body imaging scanners found in airports. However, you should always discuss concerns with your doctor prior to making plans.
There are some medical procedures that can damage your heart device, but these vary depending on the specific device. For instance, you still may be able to undergo an MRI with a leadless pacemaker, but some traditional devices may not be compatible. You should always talk to your doctor before any medical or dental procedure to assess the benefits and risk.
Pace of Mind is a Mended Hearts educational initiative about new leadless pacing options for patients, in collaboration with Medtronic.