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Living With A Pacemaker

Getting back to normal

You will be given an identification card to carry with you at all times. This will have details about you, your pacemaker, your doctor and the hospital you attend.

You can usually resume your normal day to day activities once your wound has healed .

After about a month it is usually possible to resume most exercise and sexual activity and forget about the pacemaker. However, contact sports such as football and rugby are not usually advised as the pacemaker could be damaged.


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Routine check–ups

You will need regular check–ups, usually at a pacemaker clinic, to ensure your pacemaker is working properly and to monitor the battery life.

At first your doctor may want to see you every month; once things are stable your check ups will be every 3 – 12 months.

When to see the doctor

  • If symptoms you experienced before return (e.g. dizziness, blackouts) then you should arrange to see your doctor as soon as possible.
  • If you have any worries or concerns that have not been discussed, make a note of them and ask your doctor to explain. It is important that you are confident about how your pacemaker works and what you can and cannot do.

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What can interfere with your pacemaker?

Most pacemakers are designed with built–in features to protect them from common types of electrical interference that you might encounter.

If, however, you suspect electrical interference with your pacemaker, simply move away or turn off the equipment. Sit down if you feel dizzy and contact your doctor if you continue to feel unwell.

Remember to tell medical, nursing and dental staff about your pacemaker before any test or procedure using medical / electronic devices.

  • Mobile phones, MP3 players, headphones and palm / pocket PCs can be used safely as long as they are not placed directly over your pacemaker (e.g. in a breast pocket).
  • Airport security systems: bring your pacemaker identification card with you and tell security staff that you have a pacemaker.
  • You cannot have a Magnetic Resonance Imaging scan (MRI) when you have a pacemaker.

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Work

Apart from electric welding equipment there is no reason why having a pacemaker should affect your work.

You should discuss, with your doctor, what equipment is dangerous to use and how close you can be to electrical equipment. Tell your employer about your pacemaker and ask them to contact your doctor if they need any advice.

Sex and pregnancy

Your pacemaker can cope perfectly well with the exertion of lovemaking, especially if you are still fairly active in your daily life.

If your heart is in good condition you can get pregnant without any problems. However it is best to discuss your overall health with your doctor before trying to get getting pregnant.


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Driving

You must inform the DVLA that you have a pacemaker.

  • If you drive a car, motorcycle or light goods vehicle (Group 1) you must not drive for one week following surgery.
  • If however you drive large goods or passenger carrying vehicles (Group 2), you are disqualified from driving for 6 weeks. Re–licensing after this time will be with a short–term 3 year licence and you will require a cardiac assessment to qualify.

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Flying

You will need to tell airport security that you have a pacemaker as the metal in the box may set off the alarm.

Some pacemakers are programmed to lower the heart rate at night, by way of a built in clock. If you are going to travel through different time zones you may have to have this adjusted.

Insurance

Even though you can expect to feel well, after having your pacemaker fitted, you do still have a heart condition. So it is advisable to tell your insurance company in case they refuse compensation or benefits in the future because you failed to disclose details. Compare companies before paying a higher premium.


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Emotional aspects of having a pacemaker

It is likely that you may have some fears about having a pacemaker. Fear that the pacemaker will suddenly fail or the realisation that your heart is not completely perfect may make you feel vulnerable. Concern for your partner or children can also make you feel fearful.

It is normal to have these feelings and it can help a lot to talk about them to someone close to you.


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Useful websites

Arrhythmia Alliance


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© Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland 2014 | Page last updated on Sunday 26th January, 2014