The pacemaker: risks and precautions

The occurrence of complications following the installation of a pacemaker is rare. The operative gesture is now well done, but some secondary risks (rare) persist:

  • It is always a foreign body introduced into the body. In particular the probes in vascular medium, in the veins. Indeed, we can not exclude the possibility that the probes move.
  • The most feared risk for doctors and patients is the risk of infection . It is rare, but not zero. It is estimated at 2%, despite all the precautions taken by the medical teams. This is why the pacemaker should only be used on very strict indications. You have to calculate the benefit / risk ratio. When an infectious problem arises, all the implanted material must be removed during the time of an important antibiotic treatment. Only after a treatment of at least three weeks, the implantation can be renewed.
  • Among the less important risks, there are also skin risks . In very lean people, the skin can become fragile.

It can also happen that the probes move. All these risks are rare. But it is estimated that 5% of implanted patients will have more or less important problems.

Precautions to take

There are few precautions to take . However, care must be taken to avoid electromagnetic interference.

  • Always have your pacemaker card !
  • When you have to go through a detection portal, present your pacemaker card, the passage will be saved. The risk of a disturbance is minimal, but it is still possible that this triggers alarms and especially that it disturbs the parameters of the pacemaker.
  • Similarly, it is advisable to avoid the proximity of induction heating plates, or the practice of arc welding.
  • It is also preferable to keep your mobile phone away from the pacemaker.
  • It is also advisable not to expose yourself too much to the sun . The risk of burns is increased by the presence of a metal mass that can store the heat subcutaneously.
  • Despite conventional wisdom, the use of the microwave oven is absolutely not dangerous.

The main advice, however, is medical. The first precaution to take is good medical follow-up.

Regular medical follow-up

The installation of a pacemaker requires regular medical monitoring to verify that the device is working, and that the heart rate provided by the device is well adapted to the patient's state of health.

A cardiological check is carried out after one month for the final adjustment.

Subsequently, control visits usually take place every 6 months, then every 3 to 4 months when the pacemaker approaches the theoretical end of its life, which is variable, usually 5 to 6 years. Subsequently, it will be sufficient to replace the housing and connect it to the probes that remain in place.

The practice of a sport

Nothing prevents you, if you have a pacemaker, to practice the sport of your choice.

Some sports are, however, discouraged : any sports that could have the effect of moving the case. These include tennis or golf . However, since pacemaker wearers are not, in most cases, high performance athletes, reasonable practice of these sports is not prohibited.

Similarly, hunters will have to ask that the case be implanted on the side of the clavicle that does not serve to stall the butt of their rifle. It must be discussed with the surgeon before the procedure.

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