Recovering from any type of major surgery can be a bit stressful, even if the long-term benefits make it all worthwhile. If you are planning for a pacemaker implantation in the near future, it may help to know you’re not alone.
Across the United State, approximately 200,000 bradycardia patients, most of them seniors, are given a pacemaker through a safe, well-practiced surgical procedure. A critical part of that process, however, is proper after-care. By temporarily changing your routine and avoiding certain activities, you give your body the chance to heal sufficiently so you can get back to your normal life with better circulation and a restored heart rate.
Common Complications After Pacemaker Surgery
A pacemaker implant is generally a very safe procedure for seniors, but as with any medical surgery, there is always the risk of complication. Some early complications that may occur after a permanent pacemaker placement include:
- Pain, bruising and swelling
- Phlebitis/thrombophlebitis, or inflammation of the veins
- Lead dislodgment or displacement
- Pneumothorax, or the presence of air in the space between the lungs and the chest wall
- Hemothorax, or the presence of blood in the space between the lungs and the chest wall
- Chylothorax, or lymph fluid leaks in the space between the lungs and the chest wall
- Myocardial (heart muscle) perforation
- Anaphylaxis, or severe and potentially fatal allergies
- Air embolism, or entry of air bubbles into the blood vessels
Right after the surgery, you will likely remain in the hospital for a day or two so your medical team can monitor the immediate effects and program the device to match your specific pacing needs. From there, most of your recovery will take place at home, whether that be a personal residence or a senior living community in the Seattle area.
Older patients are typically recommended to take three days to a week off work in order to lay low. If you’re retired, you won’t have to worry about requesting that time off. You or your loved one should be able to resume all your normal activities around four weeks.
Dos and Don'ts for Seniors After Pacemaker Surgery
The actions you do, or more often don’t, take will impact the rate and effectiveness of your recovery after a pacemaker implantation. Here are some of the things you should and shouldn’t do directly following your pacemaker surgery:
1. Don’t Do Heavy Lifting
You want to give the lead(s) of your pacemaker a chance to attach firmly to your heart tissue and your incision enough time heal. After your surgery, take a break from any rough contact, heavy lifting or activities that depend on upper-body strength and coordination. For some seniors, that may include your usual weight-lifting routine. In general, just avoid strenuous activity and don’t move the arm on the pacemaker side of your body above shoulder-level for a few weeks. If you are sexually active, be careful supporting your weight on your arms while the incision is healing.
2. Do Carry Your Medical Device ID
As you’re going out and about, don’t forget to keep your medical device ID card on you at all times. If you’re in an accident, the card will alert the attending medics and security workers that you have a pacemaker so they can respond accordingly. It can also save you inconvenience at the airport or other places with metal detectors. All your doctor, dentists and caregivers at your Seattle senior living community should be informed that you have a pacemaker.
3. Don’t Hesitate to Call Your Doctor
If you have redness, swelling or discharge around your incision, a fever more than two or three days, or a severe drop in your heart rate, immediately contact your physician. You also should feel free to call with any questions about your device, medications or heart rhythm.
4. Do Go Walking
After a couple days, you should be fine walking and doing low-impact exercises that don't involve as much of your upper body. However, you want to avoid activities that could potentially harm you or others if you were to lose consciousness. For example, driving, bike riding, swimming alone or hiking are questionable. C
heck with your doctor about when it is safe to engage in these activities again.
5. Don’t Wear Tight Clothing
Tight clothing can irritate the skin over your implant and the incision itself, so plan to wear loose, baggy shirts and dresses for a while. Also, try to avoid rubbing or scratching your implant or your surrounding chest area.
6. Do Go to Your Follow-Up Visit
Generally, your doctor’s office in Seattle can remotely monitor your pacemaker via wireless technology. They can even adjust settings, check battery life and track data about your heart rate and rhythm. However, it is likely you will still need to schedule an in-person visit in order for your physician to adjust the pacemaker if needed. Be sure to show up for that appointment.
7. Don’t Travel Too Far
Don’t make any long-distance travel plans in the weeks succeeding your pacemaker surgery. Just in case you experience any complications, you want to be close to your regular healthcare provider and general caregiving team. If you want to take day-trips, make sure to have a travel buddy with you.
8. Do Be Cautious with Medications
Your physician may prescribe pain medications for you or your loved one to take during recovery. If that’s the case, follow the prescription guidelines. However, you should not take aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin), naproxen (Aleve) or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) unless you’ve first checked with your doctor.
Caring for Seniors in Seattle
Following a pacemaker implantation, it can provide comfort and peace of mind to have care from friends, family members and others. At Daystar Retirement Village, we provide non-intrusive wellbeing checks to all our residents, whether you live in a 55-plus apartment, assisted living or independent living. You also can elect to receive other c care services according to your needs. We stay up to date with the lives of our residents to ensure we are offering the right support and assistance for a healthy, happy life.