Skip to Content
Home > Wellness > Health Library > Heart Problems: Living With a Pacemaker
A pacemaker keeps your heart from beating too slowly. It's important to know how this device works and how to keep it
working right. Learning a few important facts about pacemakers can
help you get the best results from your device.
You may have a device that combines a pacemaker and an implantable
cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD), which can shock your heart back to a normal rhythm. For more information on ICDs, see Heart Problems: Living With an ICD.
are small electrical devices that help control the timing of your
pacemaker is implanted under the skin of your chest
wall. The pacemaker's wires are passed through a vein into the chambers of your
heart. The pacemaker sends out small electrical pulses that keep your heart from
beating too slowly.
A pacemaker sends out mild electrical pulses that keep
your heart from beating too slowly.
A pacemaker keeps your heart from beating too
slowly by sending out mild electrical pulses.
Continue to Why?
To be sure that your device is
working right, you will need to have it checked regularly. Pacemakers can stop working because of loose or broken wires or other problems. Your doctor
also will make sure that your pacemaker settings are right for what your body
You may need to go to your doctor's office, or you may be
able to get the device checked over the phone or the Internet.
Pacemakers run on batteries. In most cases, pacemaker batteries last 5 to 15 years. When it's time to replace the
battery, you'll need another surgery, although it will be easier than the
surgery you had to place the device. The surgery is easier, because your doctor doesn't have to replace the leads that go to your heart.
It's important to have your pacemaker checked
regularly to make sure it is working right.
Pacemakers run on batteries. To be
sure that your device is working right, you need to have it checked regularly.
Continue to How?
When you have a pacemaker, it's important to avoid strong magnetic
and electrical fields. The lists below show electrical and magnetic sources and
how they may affect your pacemaker. For best results, follow these
guidelines. These safety tips also apply to devices that combine an ICD and a pacemaker. If you have questions, check with your doctor.
Stay away from:
Use with caution:
Safe to use:
Most medical tests and procedures won't affect your pacemaker,
except for MRI, which uses strong magnets. To be safe:
You can travel safely with a cardiac device. But you'll want to be prepared before you go.
Talk to your doctor about how having a heart rhythm problem may affect your ability to drive.
Pacemakers often are used to improve your ability to
exercise. Talk to your doctor about the type and amount of exercise and other activity you can do.
Stop exercising and call your doctor if you have:
Most people who have a pacemaker can have an active sex life. After you get a pacemaker implanted, you'll let your chest heal for a short time. If your doctor says that you can exercise and be active, then it's probably safe for you to have sex.
Talk with your doctor if you have any concerns.
Call your doctor right away if you have symptoms that could mean your device isn't working properly, such as:
Call your doctor right away if you think you have an infection near your device. Signs of an infection include:
It's safe to use a cell phone, but don't keep it in a
pocket directly over your pacemaker.
It's okay to use a cell phone when you have a
pacemaker. Just don't carry it in a pocket directly over the device.
You need to carry a pacemaker ID card with you
at all times. The card should include manufacturer information and the model
It's important to carry a pacemaker
card with you at all times.
Continue to Where?
Now that you have read this
information, you know more about living with a pacemaker.
If you have questions about this information, print it out and take it
with you when you visit your doctor. You may want to make notes on pages where
you have questions.
Return to topic:
Other Works Consulted
Akoum NW, et al. (2008). Pacemaker therapy. In EG Nabel, ed., ACP Medicine, section 1, chap. 7. Hamilton, ON: BC Decker.
Baddour LM, et al. (2010). Update on cardiovascular implantable electronic device infections and their management. A scientific statement from the American Heart Association. Circulation, 121(3): 458–477.
Lee S, et al. (2009). Clinically significant magnetic interference of implanted cardiac devices by portable headphones. Heart Rhythm, 6(10): 1432–1436.
Levine GN, et al. (2012). Sexual activity and cardiovascular disease: A scientific statement from the American Heart Association. Circulation, 125(8): 1058–1072.
Sears SF, et al. (2005). How to respond to an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator shock. Circulation, 111(23): e380–e382.
Swerdlow CD, et al. (2012). Pacemakers and implantable cardioverter-defibrillators. In RO Bonow et al., eds., Braunwald's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine, 9th ed., vol. 1, pp. 745–770. Philadelphia: Saunders.
Wilkoff BL, et al. (2008). HRS/EHRA expert consensus
on the monitoring of cardiovascular implantable electronic devices (CIEDS):
Description of techniques, indications, personnel, frequency and ethical
considerations. Heart Rhythm, 5(6): 907–925. Available
April 20, 2012
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Rakesh K. Pai, MD, FACC - Cardiology, Electrophysiology
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.
To learn more visit Healthwise.org
© 1995-2013 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.
Our interactive Decision Points guide you through making key health decisions by combining medical information with your personal information.
You'll find Decision Points to help you answer questions about:
Get started learning more about your health!
Our Interactive Tools can help you make smart decisions for a healthier life. You'll find personal calculators and tools for health and fitness, lifestyle checkups, and pregnancy.
Feeling under the weather?
Use our interactive symptom checker to evaluate your symptoms and determine appropriate action or treatment.
Genesis HealthCare System | 1-800-322-4762