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What precautions should I take if I have a pacemaker?

These precautions should always be considered if you have a pacemaker: 
  • Always carry an ID card that states you have a pacemaker. In addition, you may want to wear a medical identification bracelet indicating that you have a pacemaker.
  • Let screeners know you have a pacemaker before going through airport security detectors. In general airport detectors are safe for pacemakers, but the small amount of metal in the pacemaker and leads may set off the alarm. If you are selected for additional screening by hand-held detector devices, politely remind the screeners that the detector wand should not be held over your pacemaker for longer than a few seconds, as these devices contain magnets and thus may affect the function or programming of your pacemaker.
  • You may not have a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) procedure. You should also avoid large magnetic fields such as power generation sites and industrial sites such as automobile junkyards that use large magnets.
  • Abstain from diathermy (the use of heat in physical therapy to treat muscles).
  • Turn off large motors, such as cars or boats, when working on them (they may create a magnetic field).
  • Avoid high-voltage or radar machinery, such as radio or television transmitters, electric arc welders, high-tension wires, radar installations, or smelting furnaces.
  • If you are having a surgical procedure performed, inform your surgeon that you have a pacemaker well before the operation. Also ask your cardiologist's advice on whether anything special should be done prior to and during the surgery, as the electrocautery device that controls bleeding may interfere with the pacemaker. Sometimes the pacemaker's programming will be temporarily changed (using a magnet) during the surgery to minimize the possibility of interference from the electrocautery.
  • You may have to take antibiotic medication before any medically invasive procedure to prevent infections that may affect the pacemaker.
  • When involved in a physical, recreational, or sporting activity, protect yourself from trauma to the pacemaker. A blow to the chest near the pacemaker can affect its functioning. If you are hit in that area, you may want to see your physician.
  • Cell phones in the US with less than 3 watts of output do not seem to affect pacemakers or the pulse generator, but as a precaution, cell phones should be kept at least 6 inches away from your pacemaker. Avoid carrying a cell phone in your breast pocket over your pacemaker.

Patients can generally resume their normal lives following a pacemaker insertion, but should take appropriate precautions.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.