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Life with a Pacemaker: Answers to Common Patient Questions

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Heart rhythm disorders, otherwise known as arrhythmias, are common cardiologic conditions affecting millions of Americans.  In most cases, these arrhythmias are fleeting and harmless.  However, there are situations where a heart rhythm disorder may cause bothersome symptoms or pose a major threat to the patient’s health.  In these cases, medical intervention may be necessary in the form of medication or an implantable device such as a pacemaker.

If your own arrhythmia requires the placement of a pacemaker, you will have some questions about what to expect:  How will life change?  What restrictions and lifestyle modifications must you make?  Fortunately, with just a few simple precautions, most pacemaker recipients can live a full and active life.

Is it Safe to Use Household Appliances with a Pacemaker?

Common household appliances such as microwave ovens, hair dryers or electric blankets can be safely used with a pacemaker.  Other devices may be used but only when kept a recommended distance away from your device.  These include:

  • Cordless phones, electric razors and MP3 players (do not place directly over the pacemaker)
  • Cell phones, Bluetooth devices, and earbuds (keep at least 6 inches away from the pacemaker)
  • Cordless power tools, lawn mowers, and leaf blowers (keep at least 12 inches away from the pacemaker)
  • Welding equipment, motor-generator systems, or high-voltage transformers (keep at least 24 inches away from the pacemaker)

For a complete list of devices and the recommended distance at which they should be kept, contact your electrophysiologist.

Can I Continue Working after Receiving a Pacemaker?

Most employees can return to their normal work schedule relatively quickly following placement of a pacemaker.  Office equipment will not interfere with the device and no special precautions are needed in these settings.  However, if your occupation requires work with or around heavy electrical or industrial equipment, some adjustments may need to be made.  As a safety measure, speak with your physician beforehand to establish any guidelines for returning safely to work.

Can I go through Metal Detectors with a Pacemaker?

Concerns regarding travel, particularly airport travel, are among the most common from pacemaker recipients.  Fortunately, you can travel as usual and equipment such as metal detectors, whether at TSA or in a retail establishment, should not interfere with your pacemaker.  However, having a pacemaker may set off the alarm.  For this reason, patients should inform security of their pacemaker prior to passing through a metal detector.  Patients are also advised not to linger around or lean on metal detectors as a safety precaution.

In certain cases of arrhythmia, pacemakers represent the most effective, long-term solution.  Placement is typically accomplished within a few hours under local anesthesia only, and the device is programmed specifically for each individual patient’s needs.  Wireless monitoring and technology makes checking the device’s battery life and effectiveness increasingly simple for both patient and physician.  Furthermore, the impact on an individual’s lifestyle and capabilities is minimal. 

If you have concerns about arrhythmia or other heart conditions, contact Cardiovascular Institute of the South where our team of expert electrophysiologists and cardiologists are available to help you live the most heart-healthy life possible.

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CIS Staff

Written by CIS Staff