Living With a Pacemaker or ICD

Heart Conditions in Adults - Living With a Pacemaker or Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (ICD)

Living with a pacemaker or ICD

With advances in technology, pacemakers and ICDs generally last five to seven years or longer (depending on usage and the type of device) and, in most cases, allow a person to lead a normal life. In addition, advances in device circuitry and insulation have reduced the interference risk from machinery, such as microwaves, which, in the past, may have altered or otherwise affected these surgically implanted cardiac devices. Even so, certain precautions must be taken into consideration when a person has a pacemaker or ICD.

What precautions should I take with my pacemaker or ICD?

The following precautions should always be considered. Discuss the following in detail with your doctor:

Always consult your doctor or device company if you have any questions concerning the use of certain equipment near your pacemaker or ICD.

Can I participate in regular, daily activities with a pacemaker or ICD?

Once the device has been implanted, people with pacemakers or ICDs should be able to do the same activities everyone else in their age group is doing. When you have a pacemaker/ or CD, you may still be able do the following:

When involved in a physical, recreational, or sporting activity, a person with a pacemaker or ICD should avoid receiving a blow to the area over the device. A blow to the chest near the pacemaker or ICD can affect its functioning. If you do receive a blow to that area, see your doctor.

Always consult your doctor when you feel ill after an activity, or when you have questions about beginning a new activity.

How can I ensure that my pacemaker or ICD is working properly?

Although your device is built to last at least five years, you should always have it checked  regularly to ensure that it is working properly. Different doctors may have different schedules for checking devices, and most are checked in the home using a telephone and special equipment provided by your device manufacturer. Your doctor will recommend in-person device checks at specific intervals as well. Any device setting changes must be made in person, by a trained medical professional, using a device programmer.

Battery life, lead wire condition, and various functions are checked by performing a device interrogation. During an interrogation the device is noninvasively connected to a device programmer using a special wand placed on the skin over the pacemaker or ICD. The data is transmitted from the device to the programmer and evaluted. Most in-home device interrogation systems use wireless technology to connect the device to special equipment that records the data and sends it to your doctor.

Your doctor may ask you to check your pulse rate periodically. Report any unusual symptoms or symptoms similar to those you had prior to the device insertion to your health care provider immediately.

Always consult your doctor for more information, if needed.

What is the pulse?

The pulse rate is a measurement of the heart rate, or the number of times the heart beats per minute. As the heart pushes blood through the arteries, the arteries expand and contract with the flow of the blood. Taking a pulse not only measures the heart rate, but also can indicate:

The normal pulse rate for healthy adults ranges from 60 to 100 beats per minute. The pulse rate may fluctuate and increase with exercise, illness, injury, and emotions. Girls ages 12 and older and women, in general, tend to have faster heart rates than do boys and men. Athletes, such as runners, who do a lot of cardiovascular conditioning may have heart rates in the 40s and experience no problems.

Illustration demonstrating how to take a pulse
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How to check your pulse

As the heart forces blood through the arteries, you feel the beats by firmly pressing on the arteries, which are located close to the surface of the skin at certain points of the body. The pulse can be found on the side of the lower neck, on the inside of the elbow, or at the wrist. When taking your pulse:

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