OSF St. Joseph Medical Center

Pacemaker Insertion

A pacemaker is an artificial device used to stimulate and regulate the heartbeat and consists of a generator (battery) and leads (wires).

Pacemakers are used to treat arrhythmias. Arrhythmias are problems with the rate or rhythm of the heartbeat. During an arrhythmia, the heart can beat too fast, too slow, or with an irregular rhythm.

Every patient is unique, and our physicians will work closely with you to individualize your care and needs.

Preparing for Your Surgery

Patients work closely with our doctors and nurses prior to the procedure. During this time, you will be instructed not to eat or drink anything after midnight before your procedure. Our staff will inform you what medications you can take the morning of your surgery. 

What to Expect

It is normal to feel some level of anxiety before your procedure. Our surgeons and staff are extremely caring and are here to answer all of your questions to give you peace of mind. 

Your registration process varies depending on the scheduled time of your procedure. You will be given detailed instructions during your office visit. 

Recovery

Medicines

  • Only take medicines that were stopped or changed before the procedure as directed by your doctor. Make sure you receive specific instructions about when to take them and how much to take.
  • Only take over-the-counter or prescription medicines as directed by your doctor.
  • If prescribed, take your antibiotic medicines as directed. Finish them even if you start to feel better.
  • Do not take any other medicines without asking your doctor first. Some medicines, including certain painkillers, can cause bleeding in your stomach after surgery.

Wound Care

  • Take off the bandage on your chest after you are home.
  • You may have pieces of tape, called skin adhesive strips, over the area where the cut was made (incision site). Let them fall off on their own.
  • Check the incision site every day to make sure it is not infected, bleeding, or starting to pull apart.
  • Do not use lotions or ointments near the incision site unless directed to do so.
  • Keep the incision area clean and dry for two to three days after the procedure or as directed by your doctor. It takes several weeks for the incision site to completely heal.
  • Follow the specific bathing instructions provided by your doctor. Do not take a bath until your doctor says it is okay.

Activities

  • Try to walk a little every day. Exercising is important after this procedure. It is also important to use your shoulder on the side of the pacemaker in daily tasks that don't require exaggerated motion.
  • Avoid sudden jerking, pulling, or chopping movements that pull your upper arm far away from your body for at least six weeks.
  • Do not lift your upper arm above your shoulders for at least six weeks. This means no tennis, golf, or swimming for this period of time. If you sleep with the arm above your head, use a restraint to prevent this from happening as you sleep.
  • You may go back to work when your doctor says it is okay. Check with your doctor before you start to drive or play sports.

Other Instructions

  • Follow diet instructions if they were provided. You should be able to eat what you usually do right away, but you may need to limit your salt intake.
  • Weigh yourself every day. If you suddenly gain weight, fluid may be building up in your body.
  • Always carry your pacemaker identification card with you. The card should list the implant date, device model, and manufacturer. Consider wearing a medical alert bracelet or necklace.
  • Tell all doctors that you have a pacemaker. This may prevent them from giving you a magnetic resource imaging scan (MRI), because of the strong magnets used during the test.
  • If you must pass through a metal detector, quickly walk through it. Do not stop under the detector or stand near it.
  • Avoid places or objects with a strong electric or magnetic field, including:
    • Airport security gates. When at the airport, let officials know you have a pacemaker. Your ID card will let you be checked in a way that is safe for you and that will not damage your pacemaker. Also, do not let a security person wave a magnetic wand near your pacemaker. That can make it stop working.
    • Power plants
    • Large electrical generators
    • Radiofrequency transmission towers, such as cell phone and radio towers.
  • Do not use amateur (ham) radio equipment or electric (arc) welding torches. Some devices are safe to use if held at least one foot from your pacemaker. These include power tools, lawn mowers, and speakers. If you are unsure of whether something is safe to use, ask your doctor.
  • You may safely use electric blankets, heating pads, computers, and microwave ovens.
  • Hold cell phones and remote controls at least one foot away from your pacemaker. When using your cell phone, hold it to the ear opposite of the pacemaker. Do not leave your cell phone in a pocket over the pacemaker.
  • Keep all follow-up appointments. This is how your doctor makes sure your chest is healing the way it should. Ask your doctor when you should come back to have your stitches or staples taken out.
  • Have your pacemaker checked every three to six months or as directed by your doctor. Most pacemakers last four to eight years before a new one is needed.

Appointments

Please bring the following to your appointment:

  • All your medicines in the original containers, including any vitamins and herbal supplements you may take
  • Your insurance card and/or Medicare card
  • A completed Medical History form
  • A government issued photo ID (Driver's license, etc.)

Should you need to cancel your appointment for any reason, please call 24-hours in advance whenever possible. If you cannot call at least 24-hours ahead, please call as soon as you know you need to cancel. Chances are, another patient can use your appointment time.