What are Basic Pacemaker Precautions?

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  • Written By: N. Swensson
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 01 October 2015
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A pacemaker is a device inserted under the skin near the heart to help regulate the heartbeat. People with an irregular heartbeat or arrhythmia due to a heart attack or other health condition may need a pacemaker. As the devices are electronic and run on a battery, there are some basic pacemaker precautions that should be taken. Certain activities may need to be avoided for a period of time after the pacemaker surgery, and the device should be checked regularly to make sure it is working properly and has adequate battery life. Other precautions include avoiding MRIs and certain other types of machinery, as well as notifying airport security before going through a metal detector.

After surgery, some initial precautions should be observed. A medical professional may restrict patients from exercising or lifting heavy objects for about a month after the procedure. A follow-up visit to the surgeon may also be scheduled to make sure the device is working properly. This visit may be followed by regular checks that can be done over the telephone. This involves attaching a transmitting device to the body and the phone, which allows pacemaker information to be sent to a technician who evaluates function, battery life, and other factors.


In addition to regular check ups, other pacemaker precautions may need to be taken. As pacemakers are sensitive to magnets, many people who have the devices cannot have certain medical procedures, such as an MRI or some types of radiation for cancer treatment. Sometimes, a person's pacemaker will need to be turned off during surgery, but this should only be done by trained medical personnel. In other cases, antibiotics may be given before surgery to minimize the risk of infection.

It is usually okay to go through airport security with a pacemaker, but security should be notified in advance because the devices can set off the metal detector. Also, the wands used for metal detection during a more thorough check should not be passed directly over the area of the pacemaker, as this can disrupt its function. Individuals who have a pacemaker should a medical alert bracelet at all times.

While most daily activities are safe and don't require any pacemaker precautions, some things may need to be avoided. People with pacemakers can use cell phones, but holding one directly over the device may interfere with its pacing. Any high-voltage machinery may also cause similar problems.


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Discuss this Article

Post 15

What happens if you have a pacemaker and stop seeing your Cardiologist?

Post 14

Is it safe to use Viagra if one has a pacemaker fitted, and have sex?

Post 13

I am a student and I am studying chemical engineering and I graduate soon. Will me having a pacemaker hinder me by working at the plant where I have already been offered a job? Also, I have Brugada Syndrome and my cardiologist wants to place an ICD, which would benefit me more for my job since I have not had any major episodes of the Brugada.

Post 11

Can I have a mammogram if I have a pacemaker?

Post 10

I would like to know what to do if my pacemaker stops working.

Post 9

Can I run a cordless electric chainsaw since I have a pacemaker?

Post 8

I would like to know if there are other procedures other than MRI that pacemaker patients should not have. Specifically, can laser surgery or laser procedures cause a problem for somebody with a pacemaker?

Post 7

I am due to have a pacemaker fitted in late March and due to go on holiday in August and return the following March. Will this be OK? Also, how long before I can fly again after operation?

Post 6

@anon152799 - Yes, you can use an ATM card in an ATM machine just fine. Your pacemaker won't interfere with most electrical equipment and even power tools. The rare exception is that some high-powered cell phones can interfere with proper pacemaker functions.

To prevent that, just hold the phone on the other side away from your heart and the pacemaker, and don't store the phone in a pocket anywhere near the pacemaker.

Pacemakers have come a long way since they were first invented, and people still have some misconceptions about just what they are and aren't allowed to do when they have one. A lot of people think you can't use a microwave if you have a pacemaker but that was only true of the very first models -- the new ones have absolutely no problem with you microwaving your food.

Post 5

@gimbell - Yikes, I hadn't thought about defibrillators! That would be just awful if somebody zapped an emergency first aid patient and wound up frying their pacemaker in the process of trying to restart their heart. Without the pacemaker, they probably couldn't get enough of a pulse going again to wake back up.

What happens if a pacemaker patient's heart stops, though, if you can't use a defibrillator? What do you do instead to help them? Surely there must be something you can do, right?

Post 4

@VivAnne - For the most part, for any medical procedure it's important to know if a patient has a pacemaker, even in emergency first aid situations. If a patient has a pacemaker and someone tries to use a defibrillator on them, for example, this can be do more damage than good!

Pacemakers may set off airport metal detectors, too, so a great precaution to take is to carry your pacemaker card in your wallet or purse and show it to security before going through the detectors. It will save everybody a lot of hassle and worry, and will not ring the alarm and freak everybody nearby out.

On the downside, you will probably have to have a pat down since that's the way to test for any weapons on you if you do not go through the metal detector.

Post 3

I think it's important to note that you cannot have an MRI scan if you have a pacemaker. MRI stands for Magnetic Resonance Imaging, and the metal parts in a pacemaker would have a dangerous reaction to the MRI scan if a pacemaker patient went into the MRI chamber.

For this reason, you should always, always tell the nurse and doctor that you have a pacemaker if they want to do an MRI!

Post 2

i am a pacemaker patient. can i use my atm card in atm machine?

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