Pacemakers and Defibrillators

What is the Implantable Device Surveillance Program?

We follow over 500 patients with a wide variety of implantable devices including pacemakers, defibrillators and implantable loop recorders. The Implantable Device Surveillance Program consists of a Physician Director; Dr. Alan B. Schwartz, who is Board Certified in Cardiology and Clinical Cardiac Electrophysiology and also has special certification in pacing by the North American Society of Pacing and Electrophysiology (Testamur in Cardiac Pacing). In addition, Dr. Schwartz holds a Master’s Degree in Electrical Engineering. Dr. Samuel Chan is co-Director of the Implantable Device Surveillance Program.

Two technicians who have extensive experience with pacemakers and event monitoring also staff the clinic. A computerized database has been specially designed for the practice to keep track of patients and their devices to insure appropriate follow up and to alert patients in the event of a subsequently discovered manufacturer’s device malfunction.

What is your experience? How frequently do you put in pacemakers?

Dr. Schwartz and Dr. Chan are experienced pacemaker surgeons. They each have over 15 years of experience. They implant about 2-3 pacemakers per week. They are familiar with all the makes, models and latest technologies and procedures involved in pacemaker implantation.

How long will my pacemaker last?

With good pacemaker follow up and programming energy outputs to the lowest safe values, a modern pacemaker should last about 7 to 10 years, although we have some patients with their original pacemakers which are considerably older than this.

How often does my pacemaker need to be checked?

Generally about 2 to 3 times per year or whenever you feel there may be a problem.

Will microwave ovens affect pacemaker function?

Modern pacemakers are well protected from microwave ovens. Also, electric blankets, remote controls, and most power tools pose no problems. Cellular phones however can affect a pacemaker if it comes into close contact. A rule of thumb for safe use of the cellular phone is to keep it at least 6 inches from a pacemaker. Also electronic article surveillance devices such as are present at the exits from most department stores can cause pacemaker malfunction if the pacemaker stays in contact with its electric field for a prolonged period of time. This device does not cause problems it the contact is brief. The best practice is not to linger at the exit of a department store but to walk passed the exit at a normal pace.

How will I know when my pacemaker needs to be replaced?

Pacemakers are designed to give ample warning before the battery voltage becomes too low. During pacemaker follow-up visits, specially designed electronic equipment painlessly checks the voltage reserve of the pacemaker. This is the reason to keep your appointments! Generally we know 6 to 8 months in advance of when you will need replacement.

Is there anything I can do to make my pacemaker last longer?

Yes, don’t miss your office appointments. During these appointments, we customize the pacemaker function to your needs, and make sure that it is running well and expending the least energy to do the job.

How long is the hospitalization for a new pacemaker implant?

Generally, about 24 hours. You will come in the morning of your surgery and go home the following morning.

How long is the hospitalization for a pacemaker change?

Generally, about 8 hours. You will be coming in to the hospital in the morning and leaving in the afternoon.

When the battery runs out, do you change the just the battery?

No. The battery is encased in a hermetically sealed titanium case that includes the electronics and a microprocessor. Therefore, the whole unit is changed leaving only the original pacemaker wires. This gives you the very latest technology when you have a “battery change”.

How long does it take to implant a pacemaker?

Anywhere from 45 minutes to 2 hours. Pacemaker implantation is considered minor surgery.

What are the possible complications of pacemaker implant?

Pacemaker implant complications are infrequent. They include: dislodgement of the pacemaker wires requiring surgery to put them back in place, fluid around heart requiring drainage by a needle, collapse of the lung requiring a temporary tube to re-expand the lung, damage to a blood vessel, bleeding or infection. All of these conditions can be readily corrected, but might require a few extra days in the hospital.

Will the pacemaker implant procedure hurt?

The procedure, which is considered to be minor surgery, will be done under local anesthetic with intravenous sedation. Most likely, you will be sleeping throughout the entire procedure. Most patients don’t feel much if anything. You will not need general anesthesia.

What is the recuperation period after pacemaker implantation?

There will be a mild soreness at the pacemaker site, but no severe pain. There will be a black and blue mark initially with a little swelling. All of this should go away in about 1 to 2 weeks. You will be able to walk around and do normal activities after hospital discharge. Although moving your arm on the side where the surgery was performed may be slightly uncomfortable for a week, there is no restriction except for strenuous upper body activity such as golf, tennis, swimming, pull-ups, etc for about 2 weeks (until the area is adequately healed).