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Pacemaker: Care at home

What is a pacemaker?

A pacemaker is an electrical device put inside the body to help regulate the heart. There are many reasons for needing a pacemaker. Please ask your cardiologist if you have questions about this.

What can I expect after surgery?

Your child may have some discomfort following placement of the pacemaker. Acetaminophen (Tylenol® or another brand) or ibuprofen may be given to help your child be more comfortable. Your doctor may provide you with a stronger pain medication if needed.

The length of your child's stay following the pacemaker placement may vary. If your child is in the hospital for pacemaker placement only, the stay may be a single night. If your child is having other procedures, the stay may be longer.

How do I care for the incision?

Keep the incision dry for 7 days after surgery, or for as long as the doctor tells you. During this time you may give your child sponge baths, or follow the cardiologist's recommendations about bathing. Avoid rubbing the incision or using scented soaps, creams, or ointments until it is well healed.

Protect the pacemaker site until it is well healed. A small, clean bandage (such as a Band-Aid®) can be placed over the incision to prevent rubbing by clothing if desired. Avoid tight suspenders, elastic bands, and belts until the incision is healed.

How active can my child be?

Most children return to a normal level of play after a pacemaker is put in. However, it takes a few weeks for the pacemaker wire(s) to become more secure. Therefore, your child will need supervision with some activities. Help your child limit overhead arm movements on the side of the pacemaker for the first 4 to 6 weeks. Your child should avoid climbing, swinging, jumping rope, or any other activity that involves a lot of overhead arm movements.

Your child should also avoid bumping the pacemaker site until it is well healed. Check with the doctor before allowing your child to take part in sports and gym class.

When can my child return to daycare or school?

The doctor will tell you when your child can return to school.

Speak with your child's teacher or the school nurse about any activity limits your child has after the pacemaker placement. Returning to a normal lifestyle is generally encouraged, so let them know your child should be treated as normally as possible.

What else do I need to know?

Checking the pacemaker

Your child's pacemaker battery/timer and wire(s) are expected to last several years. To make sure the pacemaker is working, your child will need to have good follow-up care. The doctor will tell you when to make an appointment to check your child and the pacemaker.

You may be asked to send a recording of your child's heartbeat to a pacemaker center, your doctor's office, or clinic. This is done through your telephone with a special device called a transmitter. The doctor or nurse will make arrangements for you to obtain a transmitter and will show you how to use it.

You may be instructed by your child's nurse on how and when to take your child's pulse.

Electrical devices

The pacemaker has built-in features to protect it from interference produced by other electrical devices. Common household electrical items are no threat to the pacemaker. Some of these are:

  • built-in appliances
  • hand-held appliances
  • microwave ovens
  • office equipment
  • tabletop appliances
  • televisions, radios, stereos

Also, airport security devices and theft detectors in stores will not affect the performance of your child's pacemaker.

Keep electronic devices, such as IPods® and cell phones, at least 6 inches away from the pacemaker. Consult your doctor if you have any special situations or questions about electrical devices.

Pacemaker identification

You will receive a pacemaker identification card for your child that you should carry with you at all times. This card gives information on what type of pacemaker your child has and who to call in an emergency. Your child should wear an identification bracelet or necklace with this same information. Ask your nurse for a brochure, or you can pick one up at a pharmacy.

When should I call the cardiologist?

  • activity level decreases
  • restless
  • swelling of the legs, ankles, arms or wrists
  • increasing swelling, warmth, redness, or pain at the incision or the area around it
  • streaks, pus, or odor at the incision site
  • fever higher than 102° F (38.9° C) by mouth
  • dizziness or fainting spells
  • breathing faster and harder
  • color changes; blue lips and/or nailbeds

Questions?

This sheet is not specific to your child, but provides general information. If you have any questions, please call the doctor.

Children's Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota
Patient/Family Education
2525 Chicago Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55404
Last reviewed 8/2015 ©Copyright

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This page is not specific to your child, but provides general information on the topic above. If you have any questions, please call your clinic. For more reading material about this and other health topics, please call or visit Children's Family Resource Center library, or visit www.childrensmn.org/educationmaterials.

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