Permanent Pacemaker Implant: What to ask your cardiologist

The heart of a healthy adult beats from 60 to 100 times a minute at rest. Abnormal heart rhythms, or arrhythmias, may cause the heart to beat too fast, too slow or irregularly. Treatment for this may include pacemaker implantation to regulate your heart rate.

When this happens, the heart is not able to pump blood effectively. This affects its function and that of other organs in the body like the lungs, liver and brain. When organs don't receive enough blood for a prolonged period of time, they get damaged and eventually shut down.

If you have fainting spells, shortness of breath, weakness, or if you feel your heart rate is too fast, strong, slow or erratically, you should consider seeing your cardiologist. They can help determine whether you have an abnormal heart rate. Your cardiologist may recommend permanent pacemaker implantation.

What is a pacemaker? How is it implanted? How can you care for your pacemaker?

3 Things To Ask Your Cardiologist In Singapore About Permanent Pacemaker Implantation

1. What is a pacemaker?

A permanent pacemaker is a small, battery-powered implanted device. It's about the size of a matchbox and helps regulate your heart rate. A pacemaker sends electrical impulses to the heart to make it beat at a regular pace or rhythm or at a normal rate.

2. How is a pacemaker implanted?

Your cardiologist usually performs the permanent pacemaker implant or insertion. Under local anaesthesia, the doctor makes an incision usually below the left or right collar bone and implants the pacemaker beneath the skin.

The doctor will then puncture the vein behind the collarbone. This is to insert the wires or pacing leads that will reach the designated heart chamber. The pacing leads are connected to the pulse generator.

After the implant, your cardiologist will close your skin incision with sutures. Most permanent pacemaker implantation only takes 1-2 hours. You'll likely be released from the hospital from 24-48 hours after the implant.

3. Is a permanent pacemaker implant procedure safe?

Yes, a permanent pacemaker implant is a generally safe procedure with very few risks. Generally, the risk associated with the procedure is only about 1%.

Considering the risks of fainting or body organ failure due to irregular heart rates, this risk is minimal. Risks may include infection, bleeding, and cardiac perforation in case the device malfunctions.

Pacemaker Implant Aftercare

After you have had your pacemaker implanted, your cardiologist will tell you what you can do to maintain your pacemaker. Here are some of those:

1. Avoid devices that may interfere with your pacemaker.

You should avoid going near large industrial magnetic devices and MRI machines. If you have one of the latest MRI-compatible pacemakers, you can undergo an MRI scan. Do inform your cardiologist, who may need to make some adjustments to the pacemaker before and after the scan.

Other things that may affect your pacemaker include anti-burglary systems in stores, airport scanners, metal detectors on doors and mobile phones placed more than 15 cm from the pacemaker.

Your cardiologist will give you a pacemaker identification card which you should carry with you when you travel and present it to airport security.

2. See your cardiologist for regular pacemaker monitoring

A pacemaker has to be checked every 3-6 months. Your cardiologist will ensure that your pacemaker is working optimally. The doctor will check if the settings are correct so that your pacemaker is functioning according to your heart condition. Regular checks will help detect errors and correct them early to prevent damaging the device and putting your health at risk.

3. Tell your cardiologist if you have activities that may interfere with your pacemaker.

For example, dental visits that need the use of electronic devices.

With a pacemaker in place, you can let your heart rest if it is beating too fast, or give it extra energy if it is beating slowly. With your normal heart rate restored, you will have more energy and less shortness of breath. This will let you enjoy more activities and reduce your risk of developing serious heart conditions. See your cardiologist about pacemaker implantation today.

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