Every normal heartbeat starts in a group of special pacemaker cells in the upper right chamber of the heart. These cells send a regular electrical signal that causes the heart to contract (squeeze) and push blood into other parts of the heart and out to the body. When the heart cannot beat regularly because of a problem with the electrical signal or damage to the heart, a pacemaker may be needed.
A pacemaker is a small battery-powered device that helps your heart beat in a normal rhythm. The pacemaker device is placed under the skin in your chest or belly. You will be able to feel the device under your skin. Itâ€™s about the size of a large watch. The pacemaker is attached to wires that deliver electrical signals to your heart. Your healthcare provider sets it to check your heart rhythm and send electrical signals to your heart, if needed. The electric signals cause your heart to beat in a regular pattern.
How can I take care of myself when I go home?
How long it takes to get better depends on the cause of your abnormal heart rhythm, how well you recover, your overall health, and any complications you may have.
Your provider will give you a list of your medicines when you leave the hospital.
Know your medicines. Know what they look like, how much you should take each time, how often you should take them, and why you take each one.
Take your medicines exactly as your provider tells you to.
Carry a list of your medicines in your wallet or purse. Include any nonprescription medicines and supplements on the list.
Talk to your provider before you use any other medicines, including nonprescription medicines. Some medicines and supplements can change your heart rate, which may affect how your pacemaker works.
Ask your provider if you should take aspirin. Aspirin may help prevent blood clots that can cause a heart attack or stroke.
Your provider may prescribe medicine to:
Treat or prevent an infection
Help prevent blood clots
Control cholesterol levels
Reduce fluid build-up and swelling in the body
To care for your pacemaker insertion site:
Keep your incision clean.
If you are told to change your dressing on your incision, wash your hands before changing the dressing and after disposing of the dressing.
Follow your provider’s instructions for follow-up appointments and routine tests.
You will need regular follow-up visits with your healthcare provider so the device can be monitored. At your follow-up visit, your provider will check your pacemaker settings, the battery, and your heart. The batteries last about 6 to 10 years. When your battery runs down, you will need minor surgery to replace the device.
You will learn how to check the function of the pacemaker at home and send information to your healthcare provider through a telephone.
Keep appointments for all routine testing you may need.
Talk with your provider about any questions or fears you have.
Diet, Exercise, and Other Lifestyle Changes
Follow the treatment plan your healthcare provider prescribes.
Get plenty of rest while youâ€™re recovering. Try to get at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night.
Eat a healthy diet.
Drink enough fluids to keep your urine light yellow in color, unless you are told to limit fluids.
Exercise as your provider recommends.
Don’t smoke. Smoking can worsen poor blood circulation.
Ask your healthcare provider if there are any foods or medicines you should avoid.
Lose weight if you need to and keep a healthy weight.
Find ways to make your life less stressful.
Follow activity restrictions, such as not driving or operating machinery, as recommended by your healthcare provider or pharmacist, especially if you are taking pain medicines or muscle relaxants.
You will need to avoid equipment that may interfere with your pacemaker. For example, you will need to keep cell phones and other mobile devices at least 6 inches away from your device, and avoid power-generating and arc-welding equipment. Equipment that generally will not interfere with your pacemaker includes radios, electric drills, heating pads, electric shavers, microwave ovens, and televisions.
Tell all of your healthcare providers and dentists that you have a pacemaker. Some tests and treatments can interfere with your pacemaker, such as magnetic resonance imaging, radiation treatment for cancer, deep heat treatment, and shock wave treatment to dissolve kidney stones. Your pacemaker may need a different set-up if you need one of these treatments, or your provider may recommend different tests or treatments.
Call emergency medical services or 911 if you have new or worsening:
Chest pain or pressure, squeezing, or fullness in the center of your chest that lasts more than few minutes, or goes away and comes back (may feel like indigestion or heartburn)
Pain or discomfort in one or both arms or shoulders, or in your back, neck, jaw, or stomach
Breaking out in a cold sweat for no known reason
If your provider has prescribed nitroglycerin for angina, pain that does not go away after taking your nitroglycerin as directed
Along with the previous symptoms, feeling very tired, faint, or sick to your stomach
Weakness, numbness, tingling or pain in your face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of your body
Do not drive yourself if you have any of these symptoms.
Call your healthcare provider if you have new or worsening:
Dizziness or lightheadedness
Feeling like your heart is beating too fast, too slow, or skipping beats
Numbness in your arm or hand near the pacemaker insertion site
Signs of infection around your surgical wound. These include:
The area around your wound is more red or painful
Your wound area is very warm to touch
You have blood, pus, or other fluid coming from the wound area
You have a fever higher than 101.5Â° F (38.6Â° C)
You have chills or muscle aches
Signs of problems when you are taking a blood thinner, such as:
Red or black bowel movements
Cuts that do not stop bleeding
Ask your healthcare provider about any medicine, treatment, or information that you do not understand.
Developed by RelayHealth.
Acute Care Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth. Last modified: 2014-07-30 Last reviewed: 2014-07-31
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Pacemaker Discharge Information: References
Braunwald, E., & Bonow, R. O. (2012). Braunwald’s heart disease: a textbook of cardiovascular medicine (9th ed.). Philadelphia: Saunders.