As a service to our patients who have pacemakers, we provide a weekly pacemaker/ICD clinic by scheduled appointment. Pacemaker checks occur a few times a year. During these visits, the pacemaker's functions and battery level are checked. If needed, your pacemaker's settings can also be adjusted. This helps fine-tune the signals so the pacemaker is always doing its best job.
The information stored in your pacemaker's computer will be checked. An electronic wand is placed over the skin where your pacemaker is implanted. It will not cause any pain. The battery inside the pacemaker is also checked. If the battery begins to run low, the pacemaker sends out a signal that can be seen during these tests. If the battery is low, you will be scheduled to have a replacement. In the meantime, your pacemaker should continue to work normally.
Over time, your pacemaker's setting will need adjustment. This process is called "programming." Be sure to tell your doctor how the pacemaker is working for you. Are you able to do all the activities you want? Do you often feel tired? To adjust settings, your doctor uses an electronic wand that is placed over the pacemaker. Radio signals from the wand give the computer inside your pacemaker the new settings.
Pacemakers are very reliable. The batteries usually last from 5 to 10 years. In rare cases, leads may wear out and need replacing.
When your pacemaker battery needs replacing, the battery that is sealed inside your pacemaker's generator must be removed. You will have this done at the hospital. The whole generator will be replaced. This is a shorter and simpler procedure than when you had the device implanted in you. The old generator is removed and the new one is placed in the same "pocket" in your chest. You can go home the same day.
There are a few things to keep in mind with a pacemaker. Always carry your pacemaker ID card. Get regular checkups.
Most machines and devices will NOT interfere with your pacemaker. It is safe to use a microwave oven, computer, radio and television. Hair dryers, electric blankets and most power tools are okay too. If you are not sure what is safe, ask your doctor or call the pacemaker manufacturer.
A few things that can cause problems are:
- Cellular phones - should be kept 6 inches away from your generator. Indoor cordless are okay. As you talk, hold the cell phone to the ear on the opposite side of your pacemaker. Carry the phone on the opposite side as well.
- Electromagnetic anti-theft systems - are often located near store entrances and exits. Walking through one is okay. But avoid standing or leaning against one.
- Very strong magnets - should be avoided. Never have an MRI test (which uses strong magnets). You should also avoid standing near large speakers, such as those used at a music concert.
- Strong electrical fields - can be created by radio towers and heavy-duty power equipment (such as an arc welder). Car engines also create an electrical field while they're running. So avoid leaning over the hood.