Living With a Pacemaker: Frequently Asked Questions
Will I be able to travel?
Most people with a pacemaker can travel without taking special precautions. In the United States, your doctor may also be able to check your pacemaker remotely with the CareLink® Service.
Can I go through security systems such as those found in airports?
Given the short duration of security screening, it is unlikely that your Medtronic heart device will be affected by metal detectors (walk-through archways and hand-held wands) or full-body imaging scanners (also called millimeter wave scanners and 3D imaging scanners) such as those found in airports, courthouses, and jails. The metal case of your heart device could set off a metal detector. To minimize the risk of temporary interference with your heart device while going through the security screening process, avoid touching metal surfaces around any screening equipment. Do not stop or linger in a walk-through archway; simply walk through the archway at a normal pace. If a hand-held wand is used, ask the security operator not to hold it over your heart device and not to wave it back and forth over your heart device. You may also request a hand search as an alternative. If you have concerns about these security screening methods, show your device ID card, request alternative screening, and then follow the instructions of the security personnel.
Can I walk through antitheft systems found in stores and other public places?
Yes. Simply walk through the system at a normal pace. Antitheft detectors used in stores and libraries operate on the principle of generating electromagnetic interference fields that can “sense” embedded “tags” on merchandise and property. Under some circumstances, the systems located in stores, libraries, and other places may temporarily interfere with your pacemaker if you stop or linger near the antitheft system.
If you are near an antitheft system and you feel symptoms, promptly move away from the equipment. Your pacemaker will resume its previous state of operation when you move away from the source of interference.
Can I use a cell or cordless phone?
Yes. Follow these guidelines when using wireless communication items:
- Hand-held cellular, mobile, or cordless telephones(wireless phones)
Your pacemaker has been tested with many types of wireless telephone technologies to ensure that it will operate correctly while you are using a wireless phone. Keep the antenna of a hand-held wireless phone at least 6 inches (15 centimeters) away from your pacemaker. This is easily done by holding the phone to the ear farthest away from your implant. Don’t carry the phone in a pocket over your pacemaker or in a shoulder bag near your pacemaker.
- Two-way pagers, PDAs, or mobile mailboxes
Hand-held devices that let you send text or data messages use the same type of transmitter as a hand-held wireless phone, so follow the same guidelines just described for wireless phone.
- Wi-Fi enabled laptop computers and Bluetooth® devices
Wi-Fi enabled laptop computers and Bluetooth devices contain small transmitters. Keep them at least 6 inches (15 centimeters) away from your pacemaker.
Are household appliances safe to use?
Properly maintained electrical household items can be used and are unlikely to interfere with your pacemaker. These include microwave ovens, major appliances, electric blankets, heating pads, irons, and vacuum cleaners.
Are physical activities safe?
Most physical activities are safe, but it is recommended that rough physical-contact activities be avoided. A pacemaker can tell when your natural heart rate increases due to normal activities. When your heart isn’t keeping up with your activity level, the pacemaker will help by delivering pacing therapy. Discuss the types of physical activities you want to do with your doctor to determine the best activity level for you.
How will I know if my pacemaker is working properly?
Your doctor will schedule regular follow-up appointments to make sure it’s operating properly.
What happens when the battery runs out?
If your doctor finds that the battery is low, he or she will discuss a replacement procedure with you. Because the battery inside the pacemaker cannot be recharged or replaced, a new pacemaker must be implanted, which on average occurs between 5 and 10 years.
How frequently will I have to go for follow-up visits?
How often you have your pacemaker checked depends on several things, including the type of pacemaker you have, your condition, your health plan, and the usual practice of your doctor’s clinic or office. The frequency of monitoring will change during the lifetime of your pacemaker, with more frequent checks as your pacemaker nears the end of its expected life cycle. Ask your doctor or clinician about your specific follow-up schedule.
What does the doctor check when I go for my follow-up visits?
An office visit provides more detailed information than phone monitoring and allows your doctor to check all aspects of your pacemaker. A special computer, called a programmer, retrieves information stored in the pacemaker and can be used to change the pacemaker’s settings, if necessary.
An office follow-up exam usually includes:
- ECG (electrocardiogram) recording: an ECG records the activity of both your heart and the pacemaker
- Programming tasks: the doctor uses the programmer to read the information your pacemaker has collected, perform needed tests, check settings, and check the status of the battery