A pacemaker implantation involves the placement of a small electronic device in the chest. The device is usually placed in a small pocket created just below the collarbone. A pacemaker regulates the heartbeat and ensures that it does not fall below to a dangerously low level.
Not everyone is recommended to get a pacemaker implant. The procedure is advised to people who suffer from heart rate and rhythm problems such as bradycardia (slow heartbeat because of the sinus node) tachy-brady syndrome (alternating fast and slow heartbeat), and heart block (the electrical signal is delayed because of a block). Sometimes, a doctor recommends pacemaker implantation for other reasons as well.
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Everyone has heard of a pacemaker but not everyone knows what it does and what to expect out of the procedure. There are several limitations to the lifestyle that a person with a pacemaker should make. Therefore, it is important to know all the aspects associated with the placement of this electronic device.
The following section details out some of the questions that you must ask your cardiologist as you consider placement implantation. But let us first look into the electrical system of the heart so that it is easier to understand what a pacemaker actually does.
Electrical System of the Heart
Electrical signals stimulate the cardiac muscles. The sinoatrial (SA) mode is a specialized tissue in the right atrium, which initiates a heartbeat. The node generates electrical impulses that travel via the atria to the atrioventricular (AV) node located at the bottom of the right atrium. From here, the electrical impulse travels to the lower chambers of the heart called ventricles through the conduction pathway.
The electrical conduction through the ventricles causes them to contract and pump the blood to the rest of the body. Muscle contraction follows this act. It is known as a heartbeat.
A pacemaker comes into picture when there is a problem with the electrical conduction system of the heart. It plays a great role when there is an alteration in the normal stimulation of the heart muscles and the subsequent muscle contraction and blood pumping.
Questions to Ask Your Cardiologist
Q: What type of pacemaker will I be getting?
There are different types of pacemakers available today and each one of them has different characteristics. Some pacemakers do not interfere with your normal daily life, while some others need some extra precautions. Therefore, you must try to know the pros and cons of the type of pacemaker that the doctor will use for implantation.
Q: Will my pacemaker interfere with certain diagnostics tests such as MRI and CT scan?
The doctors do not ask every patient with a pacemaker to stay away from MRI in the future. There are pacemakers that do not malfunction when a patient undergoes specific imaging tests. Ask your doctor if you should avoid MRI in the future.
Q: How long will my pacemaker last and how often do I need to change batteries?
The pacemaker contains batteries and the arrangement is such that the latter are inseparable. Hence, when the batteries wear down, the replacement of the complete pacemaker is necessary. Typically, the batteries of the pacemaker last for about five to seven years. However, this varies from patient to patient. Therefore, only your cardiologist will be in a better position to tell about the life of your pacemaker.
Q: What restrictions do I have after getting a pacemaker?
After pacemaker implantation, there are certain lifestyle-related restrictions that patients must follow. You will have to avoid doing certain activities such as heavy weight lifting and to pass through an anti-theft security system. However, the severity of restrictions varies from one patient to other because of the variation in the characteristics of pacemaker implanted. Ask your cardiologist about what specific changes you must make in your lifestyle after implantation.
Q: When should I be worried?
There may be times when you are confused about the device and its functioning, whether it is doing its work properly or if there is a need to worry. Ask your cardiologist about specific warning signs that you should let him or her know as soon as you notice them. Also, ask about specific signs of infection you should look out for after the surgery.
Q: Can I drive with the pacemaker?
Whether you can drive or not depends on the type of pacemaker that the doctor has used. Most of the patients can drive as soon as the doctors confirm that the pacemaker is working fine. Ask your cardiologist when you will be able to resume driving again.
Q: Should I be worried about the use of computers, tablets, mobile phones, or mp3 players?
As far as specific jobs are concerned, people who use computers and tablets daily do not need to to refrain from it completely. However, you must not hold your laptop or tablet too close to your chest. Additionally, patients should keep headphones that contain magnetic substance away from pacemaker devices. The patient should not hold smartphones and mp3 players to the same side of the body as the pacemaker. Ask your cardiologist about the precautions that you need to take with respect to the use of laptops, mobiles, and headphones.
In addition to all these questions, you also talk about the impact that the pacemaker will have on your sexual life. You should also ask about how it can affect your traveling plans and treatment for other medical conditions.