Living with heart pacemaker
Heart pacemaker is a device which is used to normalize heart rate, by correcting irregular electrical impulses of the cardiac muscle. These problems are usually caused by the malfunctions in its natural pacemaker rhythm.
However, heart's electrical activity can be affected due to other factors such as nerve and muscle disorders. There are also two types of cardiac pacemakers, temporary ones and the permanent ones.
We are going to talk about the ones which can last from 7 to 15 years, before it comes the need to change the batteries.
USES OF PACEMAKER
Cardiac pacemaker can be used to:
- Speed up slow heart rate
- Slow down fast heart rate
- Normalize irregular heart rate
- Prevent dangerous arrhythmias caused by long QT syndrome
- Regulate electrical impulses between the heart chambers. Only special kind of heart pacemakers are able to do this. They are mostly used to treat heart failure.
- Coordinate electrical impulses, while making sure that upper and lower heart chambers are contracting normally, if the atria is quivering, instead of beating normally.
Although pacemakers are mostly used to treat heart disease, they can also be used to monitor progression of heart disease. Besides recording heart rate and electrical acitvity of the cardiac muscle, they can monitor blood pressure, temperature, adrenaline or oxygen levels, breathing rate and other functions.
HOW TO PREPARE FOR PACEMAKER INSTALLATION
You will have to shower day before the surgery. You may also be given a special anti-bacterial soap to thoroughly wash your whole body below the neck.
Tell you doctor about drugs or supplements you might be taking, before the surgery. He will tell you which ones you should and shouldn't take.
When it comes to food, it is advised not to eat or drink anything after midnight, the night before the surgery.
WHAT TO EXPECT DURING PACEMAKER INSTALLATION
You will be given a sedative to help you relax but you will be awake during procedure. The doctor will make a small incision, usually on the left side of the chest, below the collarbone.
The first part of pacemaker, the generator which contains battery and the information to control the heart beat, is placed under the skin where the incision is made.
The second part of heart pacemaker, the leads which are the wires connecting the heart to the generator that carry electrical messages, are positioned by the doctor with the help of live X-rays.
After the leads and the generator are in place and connected, incision is closed with stitches. This procedure takes about 1 hour, while you are usually free to go home 1 day after the surgery.
RISKS DURING INSTALLATION OF CARDIAC PACEMAKER
Although the risk of complications, during the surgery is minimized due to advancements in technique and technology, it is still possible. They may include:
- Bleeding around the heart, caused by puncture of the heart which is very rare
- Punctured lung in rare occasions
- Irregular heart rhythm
LIVING WITH HEART PACEMAKER
Individuals living with cardiac pacemaker should stay away from high powered electrical equipment, electrical substations, high power transmitters and magnets such as MRI.
Although it is used to treat heart related diseases, patients are still obliged to take medication, in certain cases. This includes drugs for arterial hypertension, anticoagulants in case of atrial fibrillation and sometimes even antiarrhythmics.
When it comes to your hobbies, daily and recreational activities or sports, caution should be advised. Although, mild physical activity is helpful and even encouraged, you shouldconsult with your doctor if you are engaged in intense physical activities.
Also, people living with heart pacemaker should avoid diving. On the other hand, you are free to engage in sexual activities.
Don't forget to carry your international pacemaker identification card, have regular check ups at doctor's office and stick to a healthy diet, in order to keep your BMI below 25.
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