Pacemakers After Getting a Pacemaker

After getting a permanent pacemaker, you will recover in the hospital for a few hours or overnight. Your healthcare team will tell you about any precautions or problems to watch out for during your recovery. You will receive a card with information about the device and its settings, your doctor, and the hospital where you got it. Be sure to carry this card with you at all times. 

Recovery at the hospital

If you have a permanent pacemaker, you may have to stay in the hospital overnight so your healthcare team can check your heartbeat and make sure your device is working well. Your healthcare team may help you get up and walk around. 

The day after the procedure, you may get an X-ray to check that the pacemaker and wires stay in place. Your team may also suggest an electrocardiogram to look at your heart rhythm. They will check to make sure the device is programmed correctly for you before you leave. They may also make sure the device can send data remotely. 

Recovery at home

Your doctor will give you instructions to follow as you heal at home, such as: 

  • What medicines to take 
  • When to return to normal activities. Your doctor will probably ask you to avoid driving or heavy lifting for at least a week. Most people return to other daily activities within a few days of having surgery. 
  • How to prevent wires from moving. Your doctor may ask you to use caution or avoid heavy lifting, intense physical activity, or lifting your arms above your head. These activities could shift the device or a wire out of place. 
  • When to make a follow-up appointment. Typically, the first appointment is one month after implant, with follow-up visits every 6 to 12 months. 

Possible complications from a pacemaker

The procedure to place a pacemaker is generally safe. However, complications can happen from the procedure or the pacemaker itself. Talk with your doctor about the benefits and risks of a pacemaker.

Complications may include: 

  • Allergic reaction to the device or medicines used during the procedure 
  • Blood clots that block blood flow. Your doctor may give you blood thinners to reduce this risk. 
  • Device problems. The device may stimulate muscles other than the heart. Sometimes wires break, stop working, or get knocked out of place. Displaced wires can block a blood vessel or heart valve or poke through the heart muscle. Wireless pacemakers can also move out of place. 
  • Heart problems. Some people may develop arrhythmia, heart attack, or other heart problems after surgery or the device placement. 
  • Infection around the pacemaker wires or device. The infection may spread, causing problems in other parts of the body. Call your doctor right away if you develop a fever in the days and weeks after the procedure. 
  • Pacemaker syndrome, which is when the pacemaker stimulates only one ventricle. The upper and lower chambers don’t beat in rhythm and blood flows in the wrong direction. Symptoms include fatigue (extreme tiredness), difficulty breathing, and low blood pressure.
  • Tissue scarring. Over time, tissue around the device can scar and stiffen, or tissue can grow around the wires or device. This can make it harder for your heart to work. 
  • Trapped fluid or air around the lungs, known as pleural disorder or possible pneumothorax, or fluid that collects around the heart, called pericarditis.
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