Cell Phone restrictions with new pacemaker. Is this permanent?

My mom got a pacemaker put in yesterday. They kept her overnight in the hospital and discharged today.

One of the specific discharge instructions is to avoid using her cell phone with her left ear. That’s apparently where the pacemaker wiring is located.

This is a problem because she hears best from her left ear. She wears a hearing aid in it. Her right ear is pretty bad. She broke that hearing aid a few years ago and hasn’t replaced it. It wasn’t very useful.

Is this a permanent restriction and common for people with pacemakers?

Mom won’t see the doctor again for two weeks.

The discharge nurse suggested getting a landline. I’m working on that now.

Thankfully there’s no restrictions on using a microwave.

Does her phone have a speaker in it that’s loud enough for her to hear? Although I do admit most of them aren’t loud enough to hear well in the first place.

She’s using a flip phone now. I haven’t tried the speakerphone function on it.

I recently bought a android smartphone for her. The standard phone App has a speakerphone. I use mine regularly and like it.

Teaching mom to use a smart phone is the next step. That’s going to be interesting. :wink:
I’ve been researching on Google. They claim the new 3rd generation phones are safe with pacemakers. But, the hospital discharge papers are very specific.

Is texting too difficult for her? Would her new phone have an on-screen keyboard? (My mom, 90+, does better with that than tiny Blackberry-esque physical keys)

She might be resistant to texting as too 21st century, but once she got used to it, she might like it. And succinct sentences, rather than rambling conversations, might be easier on her “audience”.

It seems the danger from a cell phone is minimal but since the downside here is big (death) some minor precautions are in order:

Has anyone ever been harmed by a cellphone in this manner? The pacemaker manufacterers would would have to be absurdly negligent (being generous) to not design protections against this minimal and totally normal RF exposure.

Actually, the wiring & control unit is probably located in the pocket just under her left shoulder, on the front side. They want to keep stray radio signals away from that. So using the right ear would be better. For most people that’s no problem.

You might look into getting a headset with an earpiece speaker* and a boom microphone, that plugs into her cell phone. Those generally provide better sound quality anyway, and having the phone on a table in front of her will be easier for any phone call where they ask you to press buttons on the keypad to respond.

*Make sure it’s the kind that will work with her hearing aid. Most modern ones do.

I have had a pacemaker since 2007 and I never got such instructions. I carry my phone in my shirt pocket which is on the left side. Never had the slightest problem. And when I get a new pacemaker (estimated to be in 2021) I assume it will be even better protected. Incidentally, I didn’t even stay in the hospital overnight. In at 8, operated around noon, out by 4.

My mom was told not to lift anything with her left arm. She isn’t supposed to raIse it above shoulder height or twist it.

The doctor is concerned arm movement might disrupt the placement of the pacemaker in the heart.

It’s going to be a long two weeks until her next appointment. I hope some of these restrictions are temporary. Seems like they could test to see if her phone disrupts the pacemaker.

A Bluetooth headset is a good suggestion. I hadn’t considered. I’ll look into it.

My youngest son acquired my Bluetooth speaker that had phone capabilities and used that for a speaker phone. Larger sound and a better microphone. It was relatively cheap at the time. Would depend on how mobile mom is as it sat in his room.

Ok, if I didn’t know better, I’d say Doc is trolling* her. Hopefully, this last order is just temporary and for post-surgical reasons to let the wounds heal up.

*“Oh, also no chewing food on the left side. And the only food & drink allowed is Pace salsa and Maker’s Mark bourbon. Yep, mixed equal parts and sipped using a right-side bendy straw.”

That is a common post-surgical suggestion, and it is temporary.

Actually, it’s the leads that the doctor is concerned about. Those are thin little wires running down to the heart, and ending in small electrical contacts. These are actually barbed, so they stay in place in the heart muscle, and in a few weeks, the heart muscle will grow around them and seal them in. Until then, there is some risk that pulling on the leads could tear the electrical contacts out of the heart, or just move them out of place. The leads are installed with a certain amount of slack, but a surgeon doesn’t want an excess amount floating around there (it goes right near the lungs, which are in pretty constant motion). [Often, the same leads can be reused when a new pacemaker is installed, which makes it much easier surgery. Even if they aren’t reused, they are usually not removed – getting them out could damage the heart muscle. They are just left in place, unused, and new ones re installed nearby.]

The pacemaker itself, with all it’s control circuitry and the battery, is located up near the shoulder, in the small pocket just under the clavicle bone. That’s a lace that is fairly protected, yet easy for a surgeon to get to, without many major body organs nearby. Current pacemakers are built with a kind of antenna in them, so that you can place a transmitter against the body at that spot, and wirelessly receive data from the pacemaker’s memory, and the doctor can transmit updated programming into the pacemaker to adjust how it works. They even have model-like devices that allow the patient to send this info by phone from their home to the doctors office.

She might be interested in something like this.

Yes, I was told not to raise my left arm above my head for a couple weeks until the leads cement in place. I was also told at my last pacemaker exam (they examine it twice a year) that when a new pacemaker gets installed in three years, they will test the old leads and reuse them if they are still working right. I can tell if things are working because I beat at a 60/min. no matter what. In principle, I could go above that, but I don’t.

And if you’d known beforehand, perhaps the surgeon could have put the control pack on the other shoulder…

Different phone systems run at different frequencies and power. There may be something in the literature about what they are most concerned about. They may even be mostly worried about GSM 2G, which caused a lot more interference problems than anything else.

You need to find out the manufacturer of the pacemaker, go to their website, and find their customer care hotline.
These companies have well trained experts manning the phones 24-7 to answer such questions. It’s done in their best interest to avoid any lawsuits that can result from injuries or death from mis-use their products.