Here are a few simple rules which, when carefully followed, will add to your confidence with living with your pacemaker.

Wound Care:

Initially care of the wound is very important.  Please avoid any heavy lifting or excessive movement of the arms, for a period of 6 weeks following the pacemaker implant.  It is important to allow the leads to settle and scar into the heart  muscle, and allow for the outside of the wound to heal.  Excessive movements such as sawing, chopping, swinging children, lifting heavy objects and excessive pulling/stretching can dislodge the leads from the inside of the heart.  It is important to continue moving the arm gently however, so that the shoulder joint does not become frozen.  Use the arm for routine movements as you would usually.  If it becomes sore, use Panadol for pain relief.

If your seatbelt rubs on the wound when you start driving again, place a small piece of foam rubber under the seatbelt for padding. You can resume driving 2 weeks after your pacemaker implant.

Keep the wound clean and dry until it is fully healed.  This is best achieved by leaving the wound open to air.  Do not cover it with any plastic or plasters, as moisture is able to form under plaster and this may cause an infection.  Avoid showers and baths for 1 week - simple washing only.

If at any time, now or in the future, the wound should become warm, red, sore or tender, swollen or starts to drain fluid, or the skin over it appears to be thinning, you should contact Townsville Cardiovascular Associates on 4779 0199 without delay.

You should go to see your own family Doctor within 7 - 10 days of discharge from hospital, and ask the Doctor to check the wound.

Follow-up Care:

It is important to periodically check the pacemaker to make sure that it is functioning properly and that its settings remain appropriate for your medical needs.

A pacemaker check needs to be done in 4-6 weeks time after implant to ensure that everything is working correctly, this will be arranged and the appointment sent to you.  You will then have a pacemaker check in 3 months, and if all looks good, there will be 6 monthly checks and possibly yearly checks after this until your pacemaker shows signs of battery depletion.

ID Card:

Your pacemaker identification card contains important information about your pacing system.  Keep the ID Card with you at all times!  A good idea is to keep it in your wallet. If you lose  your card please contact the Pacemaker Clinic so a new one can be arranged for you.  You may also choose to wear a Medic Alert bracelet to show that you have a pacemaker.  The Pacemaker Clinic or your GP can give you an application for this.

Electrical Devices:

Your pacemaker is well shielded from the kinds of electrical interference that you are likely to encounter in daily life.  Certain sources of electrical interference can affect the proper operation of your pacemaker.

Items that are safe to use:

Microwave ovens, televisions, VCR's, radios, CD players, cordless phones, toasters, blenders, can openers, shavers, hair dryers, electric razors, toothbrushes, electric blankets, heating pads, personal computers, fax/copy machines, convection ovens etc.

Items to avoid:

Magnetic blankets/pillows - avoid as they can affect pacemaker function.

Transmitting antennas and their power sources.

Power transmission lines - avoid high-voltage electrical fields produced by high-power electrical lines.

Arc Welders - some low amperage DIY welders may be able to be used when certain safety precautions are followed, please ask the Pacemaker Technologist!

Diathermy equipment (intense heat treatment devices) - diathermy equipment should never be used on a pacemaker patient.  Such equipment is generally located in hospitals or clinics.

Items that require to you take precautions:

Cellular phones - these can affect pacemaker function; it is recommended that you hold them on the opposite side of the body from the implanted device. Do not carry cellular phone in breast pocket.

Airport security systems - passing through the metal detector at airports will not damage your pacemaker, but the metal in your pacemaker may sound the alarm.  If the alarm sounds, show security personnel your ID Card.  Security may request to use the hand held metal detector.  The magnetic field generated by these wands can affect the pacemaker. A hand search is recommended. 

Theft detectors - walk through them but do not lean on or linger between them.

Strong magnets/Power generators - keep at least 12 inches away form your pacemaker.

Running engines/Alternators - keep at least 12 inches away from, or avoid, as alternators create large magnetic fields that could potentially temporarily inhibit your pacemaker.

Radiation - high-energy radiation can damage your pacemaker.  If you need radiation therapy near your pacemaker site ensure your Physician knows you have a pacemaker.

If you are having any type of medical procedure performed, let your physician, dentist, chiropractor, physical therapist or any health or cosmetic carer know that you have a pacemaker.

If any other problems arise, please feel free to contact us, and we will endeavour to help, sort these out, or provide any further necessary information.

For further information contact Dr McAlister, Townsville Cardiovascular Associates, on (07) 4779 0199.