Pacemaker Insertion
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What is a Pacemaker and Other Common Questions

What is a pacemaker?
A pacemaker is a small electronic device about the size of a half dollar coin. It has a battery inside, and it contains electronic programs, both to listen to the natural electrical signal of the heart and to send a properly timed electrical signal to aid the natural heart beat.

How does one tell if the pacemaker is working properly?
The pacemaker can be checked from your home using the telephone to call in the electrocardiogram and pacemaker function. Instructions on how and when to do this will be given before the parents leave. The pacemaker will be checked in great detail when the child goes to the pacemaker clinic. Some visits will be brief, but some will be long and involve a chest xray (to check the lead) and the detailed pacemaker evaluation.

How long will the battery last?
Usually years. The exact answer depends on how much of the time the pacemaker is in use. The batteries last longer if the pacemaker is used only a small part of the time; it is shorter if the pacemaker makes every beat. Battery life is also determined by how much energy is used to make each heartbeat.

How will I know when the battery is low?
The pacemaker gives a signal during the magnet test (part of calling in or the pacemaker check in clinic) or by a change in rate that tells the doctor that the battery is getting low. A battery (generator) change is then scheduled. In general, only the pacemaker generator is changed if the lead is still working well.

Can my child be around microwaves?
Yes. Modern microwaves do not affect pacemaker function.

Can my child use a cellular phone?
Analog phones may be used. Ask the child's cardiologist about digital phones.

Can my child play sports?
Your doctor's recommendations about sports depend mostly on the heart condition and not on the pacemaker. Children with normal hearts or those with mild heart defects can usually take gym and play competitive sports. Because of the risk of lead fracture (breakage) we recommend no professional or varsity football and no karate. Sports with a high risk of contact injury are to be avoided. Swimming, soccer, baseball are generally fine. Ask specific questions of your child's doctor.

Should my child wear a bracelet stating that he has a pacemaker?
Yes, the forms can usually be found at your local pharmacy.

Can my child go though a metal detector?
Yes. If the detector alarms, show the person the card or bracelet for the pacemaker and do not let the person place the detector wand over the pacemaker.

Can my child ride the rides at the amusement parks?
Yes, if you allow them to do so. The pacemaker will function well.