After pacemaker implantation - FAQs 

How will I be monitored?

You'll be attached to a special monitor so the medical team can keep an eye on your heart rhythm. The monitor consists of a small box connected by wires to your chest with sticky electrode patches.

The box displays your heart rhythm on several monitors in the nursing unit. The nurses will be able to observe your heart rate and rhythm.

A chest X-ray will be carried out to check your lungs, as well as the position of the pacemaker and leads.

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Will I be in pain after the procedure? 

You may feel some pain or discomfort during the first 48 hours after having a pacemaker fitted, and you'll be given pain-relieving medication.

There may also be some bruising where the pacemaker was inserted. This usually passes within a few days. Tell the staff if your symptoms are persistent or severe.

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When can I leave hospital? 

It's sometimes possible to go home on the same day you have the procedure, but you'll usually need to stay in hospital for one or two days. You'll need to arrange for someone to pick you up from hospital and take you home.

Before going home, you'll be given a pacemaker registration card, which has the details of the make and model of your pacemaker. Always carry the card with you in case of an emergency. 

You may also want to wear a MedicAlert bracelet or necklace engraved with important information, such as the type of pacemaker you have, a personal identity number and a 24-hour emergency phone number.

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How soon can I drive? 

If you have an ordinary driving licence, you can start driving again after one week as long as:

  • you don't have any symptoms, such as dizziness or fainting, that would affect your driving
  • you have regular check-ups at the pacemaker clinic
  • you haven't recently had a heart attack or heart surgery

You must also tell the Driver & Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) and your insurance company that you have a pacemaker.

If you drive a large or passenger-carrying vehicle, you'll have to wait six weeks after your pacemaker is fitted before driving again.

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Will I be able to feel or see the pacemaker? 

You'll be able to feel the pacemaker, but you'll soon get used to it. It may seem a bit heavy at first, and it may feel uncomfortable when you lie in certain positions.

Modern pacemakers are now so small they're almost completely hidden by the chest tissue and are barely noticeable.

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How soon will I be back to normal?

You should feel back to your usual self – or even better – very quickly. It's best to avoid reaching up on the side you had your operation for four to six weeks – that means not hanging out washing or lifting anything from a high shelf, for example.

However, it's important to keep your arm mobile by gently moving it to avoid getting a frozen shoulder. A physiotherapist can show you how to do this. You'll usually be able to do all the things you want to do after around four weeks.

The time you need off work will depend on your job – your cardiologist will usually be able to advise you about this. Typically, people who've had a pacemaker fitted are advised to take three to seven days off.

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When can I exercise or play sports again? 

You should avoid strenuous activities for around four to six weeks after having your pacemaker fitted. After this, you should be able to do most activities and sports.

However, if you play contact sports such as football or rugby, it's important to avoid collisions. You may want to wear a protective pad. Avoid very energetic activities, such as squash.

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How can I care for my wound? 

Don't get your wound wet until your stitches have been taken out. After that, avoid wearing anything that rubs against the area of your wound, such as braces.

Women may need a new bra with wider straps. Avoid exposing your wound to sunlight in the first year as this can cause a darker scar.

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Will I have to have my stitches removed? 

It depends on the kind of stitches used. Many doctors use soluble stitches that dissolve on their own. Before you go home, you'll be told what type of stitches you have.

If you need to have your stitches removed, it will usually be after about 7 to 10 days.

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What check-ups will I need?

You'll usually have your pacemaker checked after four to six weeks at the hospital where it was implanted. Provided this check is satisfactory, you'll have your pacemaker checked every 3 to 12 months.

If after having the pacemaker fitted and leaving hospital you feel you're not getting as much benefit as you imagined, your pacemaker may need some small adjustments. The cardiologist or cardiac technician will be able to do this.

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What problems should I look out for?

Signs that your pacemaker isn't working as it should or you've developed an infection or blood clot include:

  • breathlessness 
  • dizziness
  • fainting
  • prolonged weakness
  • a swollen arm on the side of the pacemaker
  • chest pains 
  • prolonged hiccups
  • a high temperature of 38C (100.4F) or above
  • pain, swelling and redness at the site of the pacemaker

Contact your GP or cardiologist as soon as possible for advice if you experience any of these problems after having a pacemaker fitted.

If this isn't possible, call NHS 111 or your local out-of-hours service.

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Will my pacemaker be affected by electrical equipment? 

Most ordinary household electrical equipment is safe to use and won't interfere with your pacemaker. This includes microwaves, as long as they're in good working order.

More specific advice is outlined below:

  • mobile phones – it's safe to use a mobile phone, but keep it away from your pacemaker; use a headset or the ear on the opposite side 
  • security devices – security at airports or anti-theft devices in shops can interfere with your pacemaker, but they're safe as long as you go through them quickly and don't linger; inform security staff you have a pacemaker fitted as it can set off the alarm
  • MRI scans – you must not have an MRI scan as it uses strong magnets, although MRI-safe pacemakers and implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs) are becoming more common; other types of scan are safe
  • lithotripsy – this is a treatment for kidney stones, which must be avoided if you have a pacemaker fitted

If your job brings you into contact with strong electrical fields – such as arc welding, diathermy or working with high-power radio or TV transmitters – or you have direct contact with car ignition systems, check with your cardiologist or pacemaker technician before returning to work.

Avoid wearing magnetic bracelets and magnets near your chest.

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Will I need to have another pacemaker? 

Most pacemaker batteries last for 6 to 10 years. After this, you may need to have the batteries changed. Ask your doctor how you'll know when the battery needs to be replaced or recharged.

Changing the batteries involves replacing the pacemaker box with a new unit. This is a simple procedure that may or may not require an overnight stay in hospital. The original lead or leads can usually be left in place, although occasionally they'll also need to be replaced.

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How often will I need follow-up appointments? 

You'll need follow-up appointments for the rest of your life after having a pacemaker fitted. These may be every 3 to 12 months, depending on the type of pacemaker you have and how well it works.

At your follow-up appointment, the technician or doctor will analyse the discharge rate of your pacemaker, measure the strength of the electrical impulse, and record the effects of the impulse on your heart.

Most modern pacemakers can store information about the state of the battery and the performance of the pulse generator. Your pacemaker can then be reprogrammed to the best settings for you, if necessary.

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Will my sex life be affected? 

There's no reason you can't continue to have a good sex life after having a pacemaker implanted and you're feeling better.

However, you should avoid positions that place pressure on the arms and chest for the first four weeks of your recovery.

The risk of sex triggering a heart attack is low (around 1 in 1 million).

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Who should I tell about my pacemaker? 

You should tell your doctor, nurse and dentist about your pacemaker as you may need to avoid some medical tests and treatments, such as CT scansMRI scans and TENS devices.

You should also tell your family and close friends that you have a pacemaker fitted. Tell them what to do if you lose consciousness or collapse.

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Will the pacemaker improve my quality of life?

Most people who have a pacemaker fitted feel it has a tremendously positive impact on their life.

Research shows having a pacemaker can help you be more active. It may also help you stay out of hospital and live longer.

Above all, you should feel better. Previous symptoms, such as breathlessness or dizziness, should disappear.

Page last reviewed: 07/12/2015

Next review due: 30/04/2018