Pacemaker Placement: Before Your Procedure

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Location of pacemaker in upper-left chest, showing its lead through subclavian vein and into right ventricle

What is pacemaker placement?

A pacemaker is a small, battery-powered device. It sends electrical signals to the heart. This keeps the heartbeat steady when you have bradycardia (a slow heart rate). Thin wires, called leads, carry the signals between the pacemaker and the heart.

You will get medicine before the procedure. This helps you relax and helps prevent pain. The doctor will make a cut in the skin just below your collarbone. The cut may be on either side of your chest. The doctor will put the pacemaker leads through the cut. The leads go into a large blood vessel in the upper chest. Then the doctor will guide the leads through the blood vessel into the heart. The doctor will place the pacemaker under the skin of your chest. The doctor will attach the leads to the pacemaker. Then the cut will be closed.

The procedure may take about 1 or 2 hours. You may need to spend the night in the hospital.

Pacemaker batteries may last about 10 years. Your doctor will talk to you about how often you will need to have your pacemaker and battery checked.

You can likely return to many of your normal activities after your procedure. You will need to be careful with certain electric devices. You will be given more information after getting your pacemaker.

If you are worried about having a pacemaker, it may help if you learn about how the pacemaker helps your heart. Talk to your doctor about your questions and concerns.

How do you prepare for the procedure?

Procedures can be stressful. This information will help you understand what you can expect. And it will help you safely prepare for your procedure.

Preparing for the procedure

 
  • Be sure you have someone to take you home. Anesthesia and pain medicine will make it unsafe for you to drive or get home on your own.
  • Understand exactly what procedure is planned, along with the risks, benefits, and other options.
  • If you take a medicine that prevents blood clots, your doctor may tell you to stop taking it before your procedure. Or your doctor may tell you to keep taking it. (These medicines include aspirin and other blood thinners.) Make sure that you understand exactly what your doctor wants you to do.
  • Tell your doctor ALL the medicines, vitamins, supplements, and herbal remedies you take. Some may increase the risk of problems during your procedure. Your doctor will tell you if you should stop taking any of them before the procedure and how soon to do it.
  • Make sure your doctor and the hospital have a copy of your advance directive. If you don't have one, you may want to prepare one. It lets others know your health care wishes. It's a good thing to have before any type of surgery or procedure.

What happens on the day of the procedure?

  • Follow the instructions exactly about when to stop eating and drinking. If you don't, your procedure may be canceled. If your doctor told you to take your medicines on the day of the procedure, take them with only a sip of water.
  • Follow your doctor's instructions about when to bathe or shower before your procedure. Do not apply lotions, perfumes, deodorants, or nail polish.
  • Take off all jewelry and piercings. And take out contact lenses, if you wear them.

At the hospital or surgery center

 
  • Bring a picture ID.
  • You will be kept comfortable and safe by your anesthesia provider. You may get medicine that relaxes you or puts you in a light sleep. The area being worked on will be numb.
  • The procedure may take about 1 or 2 hours.

When should you call your doctor?

  • You have questions or concerns.
  • You don't understand how to prepare for your procedure.
  • You become ill before the procedure (such as fever, flu, or a cold).
  • You need to reschedule or have changed your mind about having the procedure.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.