A pacemaker is a small, battery-operated device implanted under the skin that monitors the heart beat and detects when it is beating irregularly or too slowly. The device then sends electrical signals to the heart to restore the normal heart beat.
The physicians at Advocate Lutheran General have extensive experience with pacemaker implantation and are continually trained in the latest technology. Our staff is highly trained in caring for pacemaker patients.
Implanting a Pacemaker
Implanting a pacemaker is a minor procedure that takes about two to three hours. A short hospital stay is required to be sure the device is working properly.
- A local anesthetic will numb the insertion area in your skin below your collarbone.
- Your doctor may ask if you prefer to have the pacemaker inserted on the right or left side.
- Using X-ray monitors, the pacemaker lead is guided into your heart's chambers through the incision into a vein in your upper chest.
- Electrical measurements are taken to determine a good position for the lead in the heart.
- If there is a second lead, the process is repeated.
- The generator that contains the battery and the information to control the heartbeat is attached to the lead(s) and placed under the skin
After the Procedure
Follow your medical team's instructions to help the pacemaker leads secure themselves inside the vein and your heart. You may be instructed:
- Not to lift your arm above your shoulder on the pacemaker side so that the leads will have a chance to secure themselves
- To lie only on a certain side while resting or sleeping
After you return home:
- Take it easy to keep from pulling the leads out of place.
- Avoid lifting your arm over your head for at least a week.
- Avoid heavy lifting, running and playing contact sports until your doctor says it's safe to resume those activities.
- Take your temperature every day for a week.
- Check your incision for signs of infection, such as redness, swelling, drainage, pain and if the area is warm to the touch.
- Check your pulse regularly and check your pacemaker by sending signals to your doctor's office by phone.
Living with a Pacemaker
You will be given a pacemaker ID card to carry containing important information about your pacemaker. Show it to your doctor, dentist or other medical professional when you visit. Because the pacemaker can set off security alarms, you may also need to show your card to security personnel.
Everyday items you may use:
- Microwave ovens
- Hair dryers
- Power tools
- Radios, televisions, stereos
- Electric blankets or heating pads
- Vacuum cleaners
Devices that might interfere with your pacemaker:
- Very strong magnets like those used for MRI tests
- Heavyduty electrical equipment
- Radio transmitting towers
- Ham radios
- Certain surgical instruments
- When using a cell phone, hold it on the ear farthest from your pacemaker. Do not carry a cell phone in your breast pocket.
- Walk quickly through store anti-theft detectors because they create a magnetic field.
- Avoid leaning directly over the open hood of a running car because the engine generates an electrical field.