Thousands of people in Canada are living normal, mostly unrestricted lives thanks to the pacemaker and similar devices. This tiny, remarkable electronic device is implanted under the skin below the collar bone. It delivers a small electrical pulse to help keep your heart beat in rhythm, and also monitors your heart function, recording your heart beats like a digital ECG. This helps your cardiologist and other health care providers detect possible irregularities, and help correct them before they become big problems.
You can learn more general information about pacemakers at the Heart and Stroke Foundation website.
What to Expect
Typically, your pacemaker will be inserted in the Cardiac Catheterization (Cath) Lab as an outpatient surgical procedure.
For more information about preparing for all outpatient surgeries in the Cath Lab, please visit the Cardiac Catheterization Lab page.
You will need to take some precautions during the first few weeks after surgery.
Care of Insertion Site
- Remove the initial bandage 24 hours after surgery. We recommend that you leave your incision uncovered. A dry dressing may be applied if there is oozing from the site.
- It is normal to have a small amount of bruising at the site. Seek medical assistance if you have a large amount of bruising or develop a hard lump on or near the incision.
- If your incision becomes red, hot, more painful, swollen or begins to drain fluid, notify your physician immediately. These symptoms, along with a fever, could indicate an infection.
- You may shower and gently pat dry your incision. Be careful not to get the stitches caught in the towel (or any other material).
- There may be slight soreness around the incision site. If required, pain medication may be taken to relieve this discomfort.
- You will be instructed to make an appointment with your family doctor or with the surgeon for suture removal within 10-14 days.
In the four weeks following your implant, please avoid:
- Sudden, jerky movements of your arms
- Stretching or reaching over your head
- Circular type movements involving your shoulder
Most patients may resume regular activities in 4 weeks, though please discuss with your cardiologist or primary care provider to find out what activities are safe for you.
Any symptoms you experienced that led to your implant should be reduced or may even disappear altogether. Please inform your physician about any new sensations that you have experienced as a result of your implant. Your physician may use this information to adjust your program settings to suit your individual needs.
Follow-up appointments at the Pacemaker Clinic will be scheduled. Your first follow-up visit will be in six weeks and then every six months or as required. During these sessions, the cardiologist or technologist will assess your implant’s function and battery. It is important to regularly attend these visits to ensure your pacemaker continues to work properly.
The notice of your appointment will be mailed to you. Please confirm your appointment two (2) days prior.
Carry your Pacemaker Identification Card with you at all times. This identification provides healthcare professionals with information specific to your pacemaker. Application forms for Medic Alert Bracelets will also be provided for you.
Please note that appointments at the Pacemaker Clinic do not replace appointments with your cardiologist or primary care provider (family doctor, nurse practitioner, etc.). The Pacemaker Clinic is primarily for maintenance of the pacemaker itself – you still need to talk to your healthcare providers about your own health including the medical condition that led to needing a pacemaker.
If you have any concerns, call your Family Doctor, Cardiologist, or the Pacemaker Clinic (807-684-6684). If you are having a medical emergency, please call 911.
MRIs and Pacemakers
If any healthcare provider orders an MRI for you, please inform them that you have a pacemaker. MRIs use high-powered magnets that can attract the metal in your pacemaker. In most cases, alternate arrangements will have to be made. For more information, please call MRI staff at 684-6321.