Pacemaker Side Effects

Cardiac Pacemaker Side Effects

People will naturally worry some about the possibility of cardiac pacemaker side effects, since such side effects could potentially have serious or even fatal consequences. Over the years though, pacemakers have proven to be very reliable, with pacemaker side effects relatively rare and usually manageable if and when they do occur.

The function of a pacemaker is to regulate a person's heart rate, usually either to speed up a person's heart rate, or bring an irregular heart rate under control. When lowering one's heart rate is required, medication is usually just as effective, though there are instances when a heart rate is abnormally low where implantation of a pacemaker will be considered the best way to deal with the problem. There are more risks involved in speeding up one's heart rate than in lowering it, so the pacemaker must be a precise and reliable instrument. Most pacemakers are programmable to adapt to changing conditions, and one of the more common pacemaker side effects is the interference of a pacemaker's programming due to outside interference, such as by the electromagnetic emissions from a cellular phone.

Heart rate is controlled by the sinus node, located in the heart's upper right atrium. This node emits electrical impulses which cause the heart muscles to contract at a rate averaging 70 beats a second, or whatever a person's pulse rate is at any given time. If the sinus not does not generate these electrical impulses properly, or the impulses are otherwise blocked and unable to carry out their function, there will be a need for a pacemaker to supplement or replace the function of the sinus node.

In the vast majority of cases, pacemakers perform as expected, and will continue to do so for many years, after which a battery replacement will be in order. A pacemaker battery doesn't quit suddenly. It can be monitored, and there will be plenty of forewarning when a battery replacement is needed, a procedure which is straightforward and safe.

In some cases though, patients may experience pacemaker side effects, though less that 10% of all of those who have received the implant ever do. Symptoms can include dizziness or fainting, or a drop in blood pressure which may occur over a period of time or more suddenly. These pacemaker side effects are usually the result of the pacemaker sending impulses out of sync, and the different heart muscles responding in kind. When this happens, some of the blood that is being returned from the veins to the heart is pushed back into the veins by the action of the heart muscles, as triggered by the pacemaker.

Microwave Ovens No Longer A Concern - Other pacemaker side effects, the bulk of them, come from external sources. For many years, those with pacemakers had to be careful around microwave ovens, as the energy from the microwave oven could interfere with or reprogram the pacemaker. In recent years both pacemakers and microwaves ovens have evolved to the point where this is no longer the case. Pacemaker owners are still advised to be careful around microwave ovens of an older vintage.

Cell Phones – A Problem, But Usually A Minor One - Two things which can still cause undesirable pacemaker side effects are arc welding and the cellular phone. Most of us are rarely in the vicinity of arc welding, where high energy electromagnetic fields are generated that can reprogram a pacemaker. The energy radiated from a cell phone is much lower, but a cell phone is closer, as close as in a pocket right over the wearer's heart. While there are definite risks involved, in most reported instances the side effects have been relatively mild, and as new pacemakers come on to the market they are becoming less and less prone to cell phone interference. Usually there will be no problem if a person carries a cell phone anywhere but right over the heart, and keeps it a few inches away from the heart when using it, the mouth being far enough away.

The other pacemaker side effects are most apt to occur during the procedure in which the device is put in place. These side effects are the usual surgical ones of infection, or bleeding, and normally not caused by the action of the pacemaker itself.