Frequently Asked Questions: Pacemakers
Your Medical Device ID Card
Living With Your Pacemaker
- When should I call my healthcare provider?
- Can I go back to my normal activities after my implant?
- What does my pacemaker feel like when it is working?
- How can a pacemaker help me with my everyday tasks such as carrying a bag of groceries in from the car?
- Is it safe for me to use electrical appliances?
- Can I drive with a pacemaker?
- Will my pacemaker ever need to be replaced?
Traveling With Your Pacemaker
- How can I find a doctor when I am traveling?
- Do I need a special Medical Device ID card when I travel overseas?
Support and Product Information
- Do you have information I can share with my family about my implanted heart rhythm device?
- What if I move or change heart doctors?
Have a Different Question?
- For Boston Scientific call 1-866-484-3268 for answers to questions about your device.
- Always check with your healthcare provider for any questions about your unique medical condition.
Your permanent Medical Device Identification (ID) card will be mailed to you 6-8 weeks after your implant. This wallet-sized card helps identify you as a patient with an implanted medical device (pacemaker, defibrillator, or lead wire). If you do not receive your permanent card within 8 weeks, call the company that made your device. For Boston Scientific patients, call 1-866-484-3268 to order a card.
Your healthcare provider will give you instructions for when you should contact the clinic. In general, phone your clinic if you:
- Notice any swelling, redness, or drainage from your incisions.
- Develop a fever that does not go away in two or three days.
- Have questions about your device, heart rhythm, or medications.
- Plan to travel or move away.
- Notice anything unusual or unexpected, such as new symptoms or symptoms like the ones you had before you received your device.
Very few activities will be off limits to you because you have a pacemaker. Your healthcare provider may ask you to avoid strenuous activity (especially upper body activity) just after surgery. Doing so helps ensure your lead(s) has time to attach firmly to your heart tissue. After that, you will probably be able to do most of the things you did before your implant. Talk with your healthcare provider if you have any concerns about physical activity.
The pacemaker sends small electrical impulses to the heart. These impulses make the heart contract.
- If the heart does not provide a heart beat at the right time, the pacemaker sends the impulse to make the heart beat at a normal rate.
- If the heart rate is irregular, the pacemaker can send these impulses to help even out the rhythm.
Most patients do not feel their pacemakers working. Some pacemakers respond to increased activity. If this is the case, you may feel an increase in your heart rate when activity level increases. Your healthcare provider programs your pacemaker to work best for your condition. Talk to your healthcare provider to find out how your pacemaker is programmed and what to expect.
How can a pacemaker help me with my everyday tasks such as carrying a bag of groceries in from the car?
The sensor in your pacemaker can indentify when you are sitting, walking, or working. It can add paced beats to your heart rate to provide a rate that is appropriate for that activity. This type of pacing is called adaptive-rate pacing. For example, your heart may need more beats when you are walking up stairs than walking on the sidewalk. The pacemaker sensor can add paced beats to your heart rate so that you can resume most everyday activities. Types of sensors used in Boston Scientific pacemakers today include:
- An accelerometer is a “motion sensor” that responds when your body moves, such as standing up and walking.
- The minute ventilation sensor is a “physiologic sensor” that responds to increases in breathing rate and depth while you are active, such as carrying a load of laundry up stairs.
- A blended sensor uses both types of sensors: an accelerometer and a minute ventilation sensor. It blends the information from both sensors to provide an appropriate paced heart rate.
Your healthcare provider can tell you about the type of sensor in your pacemaker.
Your pacemaker is designed to work properly around most appliances and equipment, including microwaves, electric razors, and personal computers. Most things you handle or work near every day will not cause a problem. However, some strong electrical or magnetic fields may affect your pacemaker, such as the security arches in stores. The effects are usually temporary. Your pacemaker will return to normal as soon as you move away from the source of the field.
Several medical and dental procedures require special precautions to prevent device interference. Learn more about sources of electromagnetic interference (EMI) on our website.
If you have questions about a specific appliance, tool, medical procedure, or piece of equipment, talk with your healthcare provider or call Boston Scientific at 1-866-484-3268. Check with your healthcare provider to see if you have any other restrictions.
Driving laws and symptoms caused by your heart rhythm are often the deciding factors in whether you will be allowed to drive. Your healthcare provider will advise you about what is best for your safety and the safety of others.
Eventually, yes. Your pacemaker runs on a battery. Like all batteries, the battery in your device will be used up over time. At each follow-up visit, your healthcare provider will check your battery. When the battery power reaches a certain point, your pacemaker needs to be replaced. How long your pacemaker’s battery lasts depends upon the settings your doctor programs and how much therapy you receive. Pacemakers today typically last 6 to 8 years.
Visit the Travel With Your Device section to find healthcare facilities worldwide that have treated patients with Boston Scientific products. Healthcare providers at these facilities can help you with your device.
A special card is not necessary, but it might help you. You can hand the card to security staff at the airport. The card explains that your pacemaker may trigger airport security alarms. The card also explains that placing the security wand, which uses a magnet, over the device is not recommended. The warning is printed in several languages.
If you are a Boston Scientific patient, you can request a Medical Device Patient Security Card on our website or call Boston Scientific at 1-866-484-3268.
Whether or not you have a Medical Device Patient Security Card, be sure to carry your Medical Device ID card with you at all times.
If you have a Boston Scientific implanted heart rhythm device, the Details About Your Boston Scientific Device section contains a concise summary of information about your device—including a photograph and dimensions—that you can print and share with your family. You may also want to share your patient handbook with them. If you are a Boston Scientific patient, call Boston Scientific Customer Services at 1-800-CARDIAC (651-582-2116) to request a new handbook.
If your name or address changes or if you get a new heart doctor, let your device company know so they can update your records. If you are a Boston Scientific patient, you can notify us of the change by calling Boston Scientific Customer Services at 1-800-CARDIAC (651-582-2116).