Living with a Pacemaker

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Living with a Pacemaker or Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (ICD) With advances in technology, pacemakers and ICDs generally last five to seven years or longer (depending on usage and the type of device) and, in most cases, allow a person to lead a normal life. In addition, advances in device circuitry and insulation have reduced the interference risk from machinery, such as microwaves, which, in the past, may have altered or otherwise affected these surgically implanted cardiac devices. Even so, certain precautions must be taken into consideration when a person has a pacemaker or ICD.

What precautions should I take with my pacemaker or ICD?

The following precautions should always be considered. Discuss the following in detail with your doctor: • Although it is generally safe to go through airport or other security detectors (they will not damage the pacemaker or ICD), inform airport security personnel that you have a pacemaker before you go through security, as the device may set off the alarm. Also, if you are selected for a more detailed search, politely remind security that the hand-held metal-detecting wand should NOT be held over the pacemaker for a prolonged period of time (more than a second or two), as the magnet inside the detecting wand may temporarily change the operating mode of your device. Do not lean against or stay near the system longer than necessary.  • Avoid magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machines or other large magnetic fields, as these may affect the programming or function of the pacemaker. Also, the rapidly changing magnetic field within the MRI scanner can, in theory, cause heating of the pacemaker leads. In general, there are alternatives to MRI for persons with pacemakers, but if your doctor determines that you absolutely need an MRI scan, discuss this thoroughly with your cardiologist before proceeding. If he or she and you agree to go ahead, you should be closely monitored by a cardiologist, with a pacemaker...
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