This is a procedure to insert an artificial pacemaker. A pacemaker is a small, battery-operated device. It helps maintain a normal heartbeat by sending electrical impulses to the heart. It may be used short term or long term. It depends on why it is being used.
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Reasons for Procedure
A pacemaker can be inserted for:
Problems are rare, but all procedures have some risk. The doctor will go over some problems that could happen, such as:
- Excess bleeding
- Pacemaker problems
- Spasms in the area between the chest and belly
- Rupture in the heart muscle—rare
Things that may raise the risk of problems are:
What to Expect
Prior to Procedure
The doctor may meet with you to talk about:
- Anesthesia options
- Any allergies you may have
- Current medicines, herbs, and supplements that you take and whether you need to stop taking them before the procedure
- Fasting before the procedure, such as avoiding food or drink after midnight the night before
- Whether you need a ride to and from the procedure
- Tests that will need to be done before the procedure
The doctor will give local anesthesia—the area will be numbed.
Description of the Procedure
A small incision will be made beneath the collarbone. The pacemaker is placed through the incision. The wires will be threaded through a vein from the collarbone to the heart. The incision is then closed with stitches. A bandage will be placed over the site.
How Long Will It Take?
About 2 hours
Will It Hurt?
Pain is common in the first few days after the procedure. Medicine will help.
Average Hospital Stay
Some can go home on the same day. Others may need to stay in the hospital for a day or so.
At the Hospital
At the care center, staff will take steps to lower your risk of infection, such as:
- Washing their hands
- Wearing gloves or masks
- Keeping your incision covered
There are also steps you can take to lower your risk of infection, such as:
- Washing your hands often and reminding visitors and staff to do the same
- Reminding staff to wear gloves or masks
- Not letting others touch your incision
Recovery will take a week or so. Physical activities may be limited during that time.
Call Your Doctor
Call your doctor if you are not getting better or you have:
- Fever or chills
- Excess bleeding, redness, swelling, or discharge from the incision
- Pain that you cannot control with the medicines
- Coughing, problems breathing, or chest pain
- Fast, slow, or uneven heartbeats
If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.
American Heart Association
Heart Rhythm Society
Canadian Cardiovascular Society
Heart and Stroke Foundation
Madhavan M, Mulpuru SK, et al. Advances and future directions in cardiac pacemakers: part 2 of a 2-part series. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2017;69(2):211-235.
Pacemaker insertion. Johns Hopkins Medicine website. Available at: https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/treatment-tests-and-therapies/pacemaker-insertion. Accessed September 8, 2021.
Pacemakers. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/device/pacemakers . Accessed September 8, 2021.
What is a pacemaker? American Heart Association website. Available at: https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/arrhythmia/prevention--treatment-of-arrhythmia/pacemaker#.W0O4YtVKhQI. Accessed September 8, 2021.
Last reviewed July 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Nicole Meregian, PA Last Updated: 9/8/2021