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Medtronic Pacemakers FAQs

What is a pacemaker and how does it work?

A pacemaker is a surgically implanted device that helps to regulate your heartbeat. Pacemakers use batteries to produce electrical impulses that make the heart pump. The impulses flow through tiny wires (called leads) that are attached to the heart. The impulses are timed to flow at regular intervals.

Most pacemakers work only when they are needed. These are called demand pacemakers. They have a sensing device that either shuts off the pacemaker if the heartbeat is above a certain rate or turns the pacemaker on when the heart is beating too slowly.

Pacemaker batteries can last up to five years or longer. Pacemakers and batteries can be replaced during a minor surgical procedure.

How often do I need to have my pacemaker checked?

After you get your pacemaker, you will have to go to the doctor for regular check-ups. Pacemakers can also be checked over the telephone. This is called transtelephonic monitoring. Even with telephone monitoring, you will still need to go to your doctor’s office for regular check-ups.

Pacemakers are checked with a device called a programmer. When the programmer is held over the pacemaker, it is able to get information about how the pacemaker is working. The programmer can also be used to change the controls of the pacemaker.

A pacemaker battery usually lasts 7 to 8 years. When the battery runs down, a new pacemaker will be implanted. The surgery to replace the old pacemaker with a new one usually requires a local anesthetic. In most cases, your original pacemaker leads will not need to be replaced.

Will electronic devices affect my pacemaker?

The American Heart Association (AHA) advises that if you have a pacemaker, you should be aware of your surroundings and of any devices that may interfere with it.

Below is a list of devices that will not affect or damage pacemakers. Most people do not need to worry about coming into contact with these devices.

  • CB radios
  • Electric drills
  • Electric blankets
  • Electric shavers
  • Ham radios
  • Heating pads
  • Metal detectors
  • Microwave ovens
  • TV transmitters
  • TV remote controls
  • X-ray machines
  • Airport security detectors

Below is a list of devices that will affect pacemakers. Your pacemaker may not work properly if you come into contact with these devices.

  • Power-generating equipment
  • Welding equipment
  • Certain pieces of equipment used by dentists
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machines
  • Radiation machines for treating cancer
  • Heavy equipment or motors that have powerful magnets

Can I use my cell phone if I have a pacemaker?

The types of cell phones used in the United States are less than 3 watts and do not seem to affect pacemakers. But to be safe, you should keep your cell phone at least 6 inches away from your pacemaker. When you are talking on your cell phone, hold it on the opposite side of the body from your pacemaker. Do not carry your cell phone in your breast pocket if that means that it will be within 6 inches of your pacemaker.

Newer cell phone technology means that more cell phone frequencies will need to become available. According to the AHA, some of the cell phones using these new frequencies might make pacemakers less reliable. More studies are needed before we can know how these frequencies will affect pacemakers.

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