You may feel some pain or discomfort for the first 2 days after having a pacemaker fitted. You'll be given painkillers to take for this.
Tell your GP or the hospital staff if the pain does not go away after a few days or is severe.
You'll be able to feel the pacemaker. But modern pacemakers are now so small they're almost completely hidden by the chest tissue.
Most people who have a pacemaker fitted feel it has a very positive impact on their life.
Having a pacemaker can help you be more active. It may also help you stay out of hospital and live longer.
You should feel better. Previous symptoms, such as breathlessness or dizziness, should disappear.
Tell others you have a pacemaker
Tell your GP, nurse and dentist you have a pacemaker. This is because you may need to avoid some medical tests and treatments.
Also tell your family and close friends. Tell them what to do if you lose consciousness or collapse.
Carry your pacemaker details on you
Before going home, you'll be given a pacemaker registration card. This has the details of the make and model of your pacemaker.
Always carry your pacemaker card with you in case of an emergency.
You may also want to wear a medical alert bracelet or necklace engraved with important information.
This could include:
- the type of pacemaker you have
- a personal identity number
- a 24-hour emergency phone number
Caring for your wound
Do not get your wound wet until your stitches have been taken out. Avoid wearing anything that rubs against the area of your wound, such as braces.
Women may need a new bra with wider straps.
Avoid exposing your wound to sunlight in the first year. This can cause a darker scar.
Most doctors use soluble stitches. These will dissolve on their own. Before you go home, you'll be told what type of stitches you have.
If you need to have your stitches removed, it will usually be after about 7 to 10 days.
Check-ups after getting a pacemaker
You'll have your pacemaker checked after 4 to 6 weeks at the hospital.
If everything is okay, you'll have a check-up every 3 to 12 months. You'll need these follow-up appointments for the rest of your life.
At your follow-up appointment, the technician or doctor will:
- check your pacemaker
- measure the strength of the electrical impulse
- record the effects on your heart
If you do not feel much benefit
Tell your cardiologist if you're not feeling much benefit from your pacemaker. It may need some small adjustments. The cardiologist or cardiac technician will be able to do this.
Returning to day-to-day activities
You should feel back to normal quickly. Avoid reaching up on the side you had your operation for 4 to 6 weeks. That means not hanging out washing or lifting anything from a high shelf, for example.
But it's important to keep your arm mobile by gently moving it. This can help to avoid getting a frozen shoulder. Your healthcare team will show you how to do this.
You'll usually be able to do all the things you want to do after around 4 weeks.
Returning to work
The time you need off work will depend on your job. Your cardiologist will usually advise you about this. Most people take 3 to 7 days off.
Check with your cardiologist or pacemaker technician if your work in contact with strong electrical fields.
- arc welding
- working with high-power radio or TV transmitters
- direct contact with car ignition systems
If you have a driving licence, you can start driving again after 1 week as long as:
- you do not have any symptoms, such as dizziness or fainting, that would affect your driving
- you have regular check-ups at the pacemaker clinic
- you have not recently had a heart attack or heart surgery
Exercise and sport
Avoid tough activities for around 4 to 6 weeks. After this, you should be able to do most activities and sports.
But if you play contact sports such as football or rugby, it's important to avoid collisions. You may want to wear a protective pad.
Avoid very energetic activities, such as squash.
There's no reason you cannot continue to have a good sex life after you feel better. But you should avoid positions that place pressure on the arms and chest for the first 4 weeks of your recovery.
The risk of sex triggering a heart attack is low. It is around one in a million.
It's safe to use a mobile phone. But make sure you keep it more than 15 cm (6 inches) from your pacemaker. Use a headset or the ear on the opposite side to the pacemaker.
Shop security systems
Walking through an anti-theft detector should not affect your pacemaker. But do not stand too close for long.
Airport security systems
These do not usually cause problems. But carry your pacemaker identification card with you. Tell security staff you have a pacemaker. Move quickly through the scanner. Do not linger nearby.
Hand-held metal detectors should not be placed directly over your pacemaker.
Using electrical equipment
Most ordinary household electrical equipment is safe to use. It will not interfere with your pacemaker. This includes microwaves.
Avoid wearing magnetic bracelets and magnets near your chest.
Using medical equipment
Tell your GP, nurse and dentist you have a pacemaker. This is because you may need to avoid some medical tests and treatments. These include MRI scans and TENS machines.
MRI scanners are not usually used for people with pacemakers. This is because they produce strong magnetic fields. MRI-safe pacemakers are becoming more common.
Always tell the person treating you that you have a pacemaker.
Do not use these before checking with your pacemaker clinic or manufacturer. TENS machines produce small electrical impulses. They could interfere with your pacemaker.
This treatment for kidney stones must be avoided if you have a pacemaker.
Getting a new pacemaker
Most pacemaker batteries last for 6 to 10 years. After this, you may need to have the batteries changed. Ask your doctor how you'll know when the battery needs to be replaced or recharged.
Changing the batteries involves replacing the pacemaker box with a new unit. This is a simple procedure that may or may not require an overnight stay in hospital.
Content supplied by the NHS and adapted for Ireland by the HSE