Having a Pacemaker and Defibrillator Inserted - What to Expect

Dr. Bernice Tsang, MD, FRCPC, Electrophysiologist, talks about the what to expect when you come in for a pacemaker or defibrillator insertion. Southlake Regional Health Centre

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Dr. Bernice Tsang, MD, FRCPC, Electrophysiologist, talks about the what to expect when you come in for a pacemaker or defibrillator insertion. Southlake Regional Health Centre
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Featuring Dr. Bernice Tsang, MD, FRCPC, Electrophysiologist Southlake Regional Health Centre

Duration: 2 minutes, 43 seconds

There are two different kinds of devices: pacemakers and defibrillators. Pacemakers are used to treat slow rhythm problems, and defibrillators are used to treat fast rhythm problems coming from the bottom part of the heart.

Devices are placed under conscious sedation. You do not need a general anesthetic for the procedure. The procedure takes anywhere between 10 minutes for a battery replacement and about 20 minutes for a new device.

Pacemakers and defibrillators are implanted under the skin under local anesthetic. You’re given a mild sedative to help you relax and a pocket is made under the skin, the wires are then placed into the vein into the heart. The wires are then connected up to the device and the incision is closed with dissolvable sutures.

An implantable defibrillator or pacemaker is considered day surgery. You come in through the day in the morning and are discharged by the afternoon. There are certain risks, and possible contraindications and indications to having your defibrillator and/or pacemaker. The risks include infection and bleeding, risk of puncture to the heart or puncture to the lung. There’s a small risk that the wires may come retracted from the heart, for which we’d have to go back in and plug it into place. And as long as you have the device there’s a risk of infection.

Patients who have implanted devices are restricted from driving for about a week. Thereafter, they can return to normal work. There is a small restriction with devices that have had leads inside the vein, in that you’re not to raise your arm for a couple of weeks, to minimize the risk that the wires come retracted from the heart.

Patients who have implanted devices, whether it’s a pacemaker or defibrillator, generally lead very normal lives. There’s no restrictions on using microwaves or cell phones, and patients are able to travel. Pacemakers will help patients feel much more energetic, will improve their exercise capacity and generally improve the quality of life.

It’s normal to feel stressed and anxious about your procedure. We’ll be able to deal with that with medications before the procedure happens. We are certainly here to answer any questions you might have before the procedure and as well as after the procedure, and we are available to you at any time through a phone call or a follow-up visit.

Southlake Regional Health Centre

Presenter: Dr. Bernice Tsang, Electrophysiologist, Newmarket, ON

Local Practitioners: Electrophysiologist

This content is for informational purposes only, and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare professional with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.