If you are considering a pacemaker to help your heart beat as it should, then you probably have many questions. Your medical team will be able to answer all of your questions with information tailored to your specific situation. The editors of this website are doctors and nurses themselves, so they have compiled a list of questions that patients often ask them about pacemakers. Keep in mind that the information provided here applies to most patients who are getting a pacemaker, but it might not be right for you. So, be sure to ask your care team every question you have.
Q: Will anyone be able to see my pacemaker through my clothes?
A: No. You may be aware of a very slight bump under your skin, but it will not be noticeable to most people.
Q: What activities will I be able to participate in after I get my pacemaker?
A: Most people are able to enjoy the same activities they did before they got a pacemaker, although there may be limitations on how much you can do immediately after your pacemaker is implanted. Your doctor will let you know.
Q: Can I exercise if I have a pacemaker?
A: Most people can and should exercise, because physical activity is an essential part of a heart-healthy lifestyle. However, check with your doctor for recommendations and advice before returning to, or beginning, any exercise program. For example, your doctor may specifically advise that you do not exercise for a certain amount of time after the pacemaker implantation procedure and then return to exercise gradually. Make sure you have full information on these recommendations.
Q: Will my pacemaker interfere with a normal sex life?
A: Your pacemaker should not affect sexual activity. However, ask your doctor how soon after your procedure you will be able to return to sexual relations.
Q: Will I be able to feel the pacemaker?
A: Most people will not have any sensation of the pacemaker under their skin. Immediately after the procedure, you will have some soreness in your upper chest where the pacemaker was implanted, but it should go away in time.
Q: Can I wear jewelry around my neck?
A: Yes, most people can wear jewelry as often as they like. It will not interfere with the pacemaker.
Q: Will I feel the pacemaker working?
A: Most people do not feel their pacemakers working. However, keep in mind the pacemaker is rate-responsive, meaning it will increase the rate of your heart in response to your activity level. So, for example, if you are exercising, the pacemaker will be able to stimulate the heart to beat more quickly in order to pump blood efficiently. You may feel the increase in your heart rate as your activity level rises; this is the pacemaker at work.
Q: Can I drive if I have a pacemaker?
A: If you were able to drive before you got a pacemaker, then you should be able to return to driving after your doctor has determined that your pacemaker is working correctly and that your heart is responding to it as expected. However, your doctor should make the determination as to when it is safe for you to return to driving.
Q: If I have an emergency health situation and cannot talk, how will medical professionals know I have a pacemaker?
A: If you have a pacemaker, your doctor will probably recommend that you wear a medical ID bracelet or necklace to let emergency personnel or other healthcare providers know that you have a pacemaker. Remember, your pacemaker will be invisible beneath your skin. If you are ever in a position where you cannot speak for yourself, this information will help first-responders and others treat you appropriately.
Your doctors may also recommend that you keep a printed card noting the type of pacemaker, when it was installed, the condition it treats and all contact information for the doctor. The American Heart Association has developed a downloadable card you can fill out.
Precautions with Pacemakers: Answer to Common Questions
If you have a pacemaker, your medical team will provide detailed guidelines about any precautions you should take to avoid problems. You will probably have questions, too. Ask every question you have. To help, we have provided the answers to questions many people ask.
Q: I have heard that equipment like hair dryers and microwaves can make my pacemaker stop working. Is this true?
A: Most electric and electronic equipment in the home will not interfere with a pacemaker. Nor will a pacemaker interfere with it. For example, people with a pacemaker can safely use household appliances such as microwave ovens, toaster ovens, stoves, washing machines, clothes dryers, irons, dishwashers, televisions, home computers, radios, TV remote controls, vacuum cleaners, electric brooms, electric blankets, electric knives, hair dryers, electric razors, power equipment such as yard tools and lawnmowers, toasters, blenders, can openers and food processors – as well as many other items.
Q: If I have a pacemaker, will I be able to use a laptop, tablet or e-reader?
A: You should be able to use regular computer devices, although you should never hold your computer, tablet or e-reader against your chest. And you should never allow any type of computer to rest on the side of your chest where the pacemaker is.
Q: Once I get my pacemaker, will I be able to talk on the phone?
A: Land-line phones are fine for people with pacemakers.
While it is unlikely that a cell phone will cause interference with your pacemaker, it is better to take precautions. Most doctors recommend holding your cell phone on the side of your head away from the pacemaker. In addition, you should not rest a cell phone against your chest where the pacemaker is. Earpieces that allow putting a cell phone on a belt clip do not appear to interfere with pacemakers; however, anyone carrying a shoulder bag with a cell phone inside should hold the bag on the opposite side of the body from the pacemaker.
Q: I am planning to travel. Can I go through the metal detectors and security checkpoints in the airport?
A: As you pass through a metal detector, the metal in your pacemaker may set off the alarm in the security machinery. (Medical ID bracelets or necklaces may do that, too.) However, neither of these should interfere with the workings of the pacemaker. If you are concerned, you can request an alternate form of screening.
Q: Will my pacemaker set off the inventory detectors in stores?
A: Pacemakers usually will not set off these detectors; however, many people with pacemakers carry their pacemaker information cards with them, just in case there is a question.
Q: If I need medical tests for another condition, will the equipment interfere with my pacemaker?
A: You should tell all of your healthcare providers about your pacemaker. In particular, providers who recommend certain tests or treatments, such as TENS machines used by physical therapists, MRI scans, X-rays, and extracorporeal shock-wave lithotripsy for kidney stones, should be made aware that you have a pacemaker. You should also tell your dentist about your pacemaker.
Q: Will listening to music on an MP3 player or smartphone with earbuds interfere with my pacemaker?
A: The American Heart Association has recommended that headphones, which contain a magnetic substance, be kept away from pacemakers. You should not put these devices in the breast pocket of your shirt or jacket. MP3 players and smartphones should also not be held or strapped to the same side of the body as your pacemaker.
Q: What about pacemakers and heavy equipment or machinery?
A: Some equipment, such as arc-wielding machinery or anything with a heavy magnetic field, will interfere with the pacemaker. Ask your doctor before using any such machinery.
We hope the information provided above is helpful; however, it is important to remember that every patient’s situation is unique. That’s why it’s important to use the information above only as a general guideline and to ask your medical team every question you have.