Care and feeding of a pacemaker

Have folks had experiences with pacemakers and how does it affect your life?

My brother recently had a heart attack, with angioplasty for a blocked artery. He then went into heart failure and was on a balloon pump temporarily. He is feeling a lot better but they are telling him his BP is too low and heart rate too high. They are concerned with meds for the BP will raise the heart rate. And that a sustained heart rate of 115 will lead to a short life. He’s 38 so that sucks.

So they are saying they will fix a valve ?? or install a pacemaker. Naturally he is very upset at the prospect of more surgery. How intrusive is the surgery for a pacemaker? Do you notice it at all once you are healed up? Does it change anything about normal routines?


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My grandmother had one for the last 5-6 years of her life. Wasn’t any big deal - not very invasive or anything. She did once have the lead wire pull out and she had to have it repaired - it hurt a little but nothing awful.

She had to do telephone monitoring about once a month - which she thought was awesomely cool. (She used to work as a nurses aide on the cardiac unit.) She never had any problems with interference or anything.

For lots of info:

My uncle, now 63, has had one for a long time. He has had a couple of very small issues that I know about.

His pacemaker is on a timer. Faster beat during the day, slower at night. If for some reason that gets out of whack (say crossing lots of time zones) it can make it hard to sleep at night.

Also, he has found that he can’t use a hot tub or spa. The hot water makes him relax, slowing his heart rate, but the pacemaker keeps merrily going at it’s daytime speed.

Had one put in a couple of months ago. Went to hospital for Atrial Fibrillation attacks that were getting too frequently and for too long. After tests all day, went to bathroom that night and passed out when heart rate dropped to below 30, adn then the damned thing stopped beating for 24 seconds.

They decided it might be a prudent idea to insert a pacemaker! I agreed. :smiley:

The procedure was surprisingly simple, under local with some tranquilizer, felt nothing but a sort of pressure on my chest from the surgeon’s hands. They just cut open a slit on the chest below the collarbone, and slip it in, but then have to snake a couple (in my case) wire leads down into the heart and sort of screw them into the inside of the heart.

All together it only took about an hour. In my case, it was just to control the minimum heart rate. To make it do the maximum too, it may be more complicated, but doubt it, as they can program the thing, once inserted, to do almost anything by just placing a gizmo on the chest and then using a laptop.

It was a bit sore to the touch for about a month. For the first few weeks you are not allowed to raise your arms above your shoulder, or obviously, do any strenuous lifting. Refrain from boxing or wrestling alligators. :smiley:

Now when I do upperbody dumbbell weight work, it gets a little sore, but nothing to worry about. They will provide printed info on what to avoid, but much different than it used to be. The titanium case shields it much better, but still best to keep away from running microwave ovens just in case. They put it on the opposite side from the hand you use most, so cellphones should always be used on the opposite side of the pacemaker too, which takes a while to remember.

My device was a Medtronic, and they gave me a little booklet that gives a vast amount of info. You can Google “pacemakers” and find a wealth of info.

All in all, there are a lot worse things they can do to you, I have no problem with it at all now.

If you have any specific questions, you can email me (address in my profile), but much better to write down all questions and then ask the cardiologist.

Good luck to your bro.

KlondikeGeoff, glad your happy with our product. They’re building these things right now about 30 feet away from my desk.

Check out our website for more info>> Medtronic

My grandmother has had one for years. They have to check it in person once a year, and she does phone checks the rest of the time, which I think is pretty cool. She did have to have it replaced once, but the one she has now should last her the rest of her life (well, she’s 90.) No problems, no effect on her normal life.

Hmm, that could put a crimp in my brother’s play time. :slight_smile:

Thanks for all the info and links. He is doing a little better at the moment, on a new medication to regulate pulse and BP.

Interseting you should say that. My brother was having a lot of trouble sleeping; he felt wired and full of energy, even with meds to treat panic and anxiety (he went home from the hospital at one point and found himself choosing between going back in and jumping out a window). With the latest drip they gave him he was able to go to sleep without sedation and he thinks maybe it was because his heart had slowed down. They also found diabetes when he went in with the heart attack (blood sugar 400) and he thinks with that brought down he is feeling more wakeful, adding to his inability to sleep at night. Too much going on in that guy’s system!!

I guess they are trying to get it down to about 80 without sacrificing the blood pressure level. A friend of mine had hyperthyroid and had a resting pulse of 140. You can imagine she was jumping out of her skin!

I can just picture the production line, big brawny guys weilding 12-pound sledge hammers. :smiley:

Congratulations for being with a good comany. I’m very impressed with the device, it’s amazing. Couple of calls I made for info got an immediatey and complete response, so good people there.

Due to all the exercise I’ve done, my resting heart rate is usually around 48-50. When I got the thing, it was set at a minimum of 60, so asked my cardiologist and she agreed in my case, could safely be reset to 50. Next checkup, the tech punched a few keys, and viola, it now is set at 50.

I understand the phone-in checkup is just to check the battery…is that right or can you do more by phone? Like contact ET? :smiley: