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Pacemaker implantation

A pacemaker is a small electrical device that keeps your heart beating at the right rhythm.

Close up of cardiac device before pacemaker implantation procedure
A pacemaker is a small electrical device that is surgically implanted into your chest to help regulate your heart’s rhythm.

You might be given a pacemaker if you have an abnormal or unsteady heart rhythm. The device can detect how your heart is beating and correct problems with its rhythm.

A pacemaker can stop you having the difficult symptoms that happen when your heart beats irregularly, for example dizziness, breathlessness or heart palpitations. It can also manage or prevent very serious problems that can result from a disrupted heart rhythm, including cardiac arrest.

Pacemaker implantation is a very common procedure that we perform regularly at Circle Health Group. Book an appointment with one of our highly experienced consultant cardiologists to find out if a pacemaker could help you.

A pacemaker works by keeping track of how your heart is beating. If it notices any problems, for example if your heart is beating too slowly or if your heart has missed a beat, it will send an electrical impulse to your heart that makes it beat at the right rhythm.

The device itself comprises a battery-powered generator connected to leads, which are connected to your heart. It is placed under your skin, usually near your left-hand collarbone, near your heart.

Most pacemakers only send impulses if they sense a problem. So if your heart is beating normally, your pacemaker will be inactive.

Modern pacemakers are also responsive to your body, meaning that if for example you are exercising and the pacemaker needs to send electrical signals to your heart, it will automatically correct the rhythm to a faster one because you're active.

The cost of pacemaker implantation with Circle Health Group will depend on various factors including what type of pacemaker you have and why you are having it implanted. We will confirm the exact cost with you ahead of time.

Our fixed-price packages include the cost of your surgery and all appropriate aftercare appointments. However, any pre-surgery diagnostic tests and your consultant's outpatient appointment consultation fee are charged separately.

Our flexible payment options help you spread the cost of your payment across a time period that suits you. We offer fixed-term monthly payment plans over 10 months to five years with no deposit required. If you decide to pay over 10 months, you will pay interest-free. If you are paying for a longer period, you will pay 14.9% APR.

If you have private health insurance, pacemaker implantation will usually be covered by your provider. Speak to your insurer directly to find out.

People need pacemakers for various different conditions. Some of the most common are: 

  • Having a heartbeat that is too fast or too slow
  • Having suffered from a cardiac arrest in the past
  • If you have ‘heart block’ (a condition where the electrical signals that control your heartbeat aren’t transmitted properly)

These issues can lead to very serious problems, including heart failure. A pacemaker can be an invaluable tool in protecting your heart. 

Are there any alternatives to a pacemaker?

A device called an Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (ICD) is similar to a pacemaker. It's often used as a preventative treatment for people considered at risk of cardiac arrest.

The ICD can maintain your heart's pace and can also send a larger electrical pulse to your heart muscle to restore normal rhythm. There are also devices that combine a pacemaker and an ICD.

Your consultant cardiologist will be able to discuss with you which is the best option for your personal circumstances.

If you have been diagnosed with a heart problem such as an arrhythmia, or if you are worried you might have one, an initial consultation with one of our consultant cardiologists is the first step in taking control of your heart health. Our experienced heart specialists will work quickly to diagnose the cause of your symptoms and put together a bespoke treatment plan based on your individual circumstances.

During this first appointment, your consultant will ask you questions about your symptoms, how long you've been having them and how they affect your life. They'll take a detailed medical history and ask questions about any medication you might be taking currently, as well as whether you've already had any treatment for your heart problem.

This initial consultation is a very important step in your treatment journey and you should feel able to ask as many questions as you like - however big or small. It's where you and your consultant get to know each other.

You will probably need one or more diagnostic tests to help reach a diagnosis. These might be done on the same day, or you might be asked to come back to our hospital another day.

Once your consultant has analysed the results of your tests, they will let you know their diagnosis, and they'll talk you through the available treatment options, discussing which they think is best for you. The final decision will be made together.

If you need a pacemaker, there are various different types you might be recommended. The one that's right for you will depend on what types of heart problems you have, among other factors. 

The most common are:

Single-chamber pacemaker

This type of pacemaker has one wire and send signals to one chamber of your heart, usually the right atrium (also known as the upper heart chamber) or the right ventricle (lower heart chamber).

Dual chamber pacemaker

A dual chamber pacemaker has two wires, connecting to two different chambers of your heart. One connects to your right ventricle and the other to your right atrium.

Biventricular pacemaker (cardiac resynchronisation therapy)

Biventricular pacing is when your pacemaker monitors both the right and left ventricles of your heart to make sure it's beating correctly. It's also known as cardiac resynchronisation therapy (CRT). You might hear a biventricular pacemaker referred to as a CRT pacemaker.

The operation to implant your pacemaker will be performed by a consultant cardiologist.

You will usually be given a local anaesthetic when you have your pacemaker implanted, which means you'll be awake but you won't be able to feel the area that is being operated on. You might also be given a sedative to keep you calm during the procedure.

Pacemaker implantation entails inserting one or more pacemaker wires (also called pacing leads) into your vein(s). This is done using very small incisions. Your cardiologist will guide the wires along your veins (using an X-ray to see what they are doing) until they're in the right place in your heart.

The lead or leads are then connected to a generator, which is the size of a thin small matchbox. This is inserted under your skin, normally just under your collarbone.

The operation usually lasts about an hour, but this will vary from person to person.

How soon can I leave hospital?

After you've had your pacemaker implanted, we will keep you in overnight for observation, just to check everything went ok. Most people can go home the next day.

You won't be able to drive yourself home from hospital. We recommend that you arrange to have a friend or loved one collect you, though we can always arrange a taxi home if you would prefer.

After surgery you will need to take at least a day to rest. Most people take three days to a week off work.

You might feel very tired for a day or two, and you might feel some pain and discomfort. We'll give you painkillers to take home with you if you need them.

There might be bruising around where your pacemaker was inserted, but it should clear up within a few days. If you don't feel like you're healing as quickly as expected, don't hesitate to speak to your cardiology team.

When can I drive again?

So long as you don't feel dizzy, you can return to driving after one week. This is different, however, if you've had a recent heart attack or other heart surgery. There are also different rules if you drive a bus or lorry. Ask your consultant for tailored advice.

You will also need to tell the DVLA and your car insurance company that you now have a pacemaker.

When will I feel back to normal?

Most people feel like themselves after a very short amount of time, though there are a few things you might want to avoid for four to six weeks after your operation, including:

  • Strenuous activities
  • Heavy lifting
  • General sports and exercise
  • Contact sports (and you may still need to take precautions even after six weeks)
  • Reaching or stretching with the arm on the side your pacemaker was inserted

There are risks with any heart surgery, as there are with any operation you have. Still, pacemaker implanting is considered low-risk and has low complication rates. 

Some of the possible risks are:

  • Blood clots
  • Infection
  • Air leak
  • Problems with the pacemaker (which might lead to further surgery)

There's also a risk that you could accidentally and unknowingly move your pacemaker.

Your consultant cardiologist will talk you through all the possible risks and complications to make sure you feel informed and comfortable before you have surgery.

Can I use electrical equipment if I have a pacemaker?

If something creates a strong electromagnetic field, it can interfere with your pacemaker.

Most common household appliances aren't a problem, so long as you stand 15cm away while you use them. This includes a microwave and a hairdryer. However, an induction hob might cause an interference. Your consultant will talk you through everything you need to be aware of.

When you choose to go private with Circle Health Group, you can benefit from:

  • Flexible appointment times and locations to fit your routine
  • The freedom to choose which hospital and consultant suit your needs
  • Personalised, consultant-led treatment plans tailored to your individual needs
  • Comfortable and safe private facilities maintained by expert multidisciplinary teams
  • Support by the same compassionate clinical team from beginning to end
  • Affordable, fixed-price packages with aftercare included
  • Flexible payment options to spread the cost of your care

To speak with a member of our advisory team about private heart care at any of our hospitals, call us on 0141 300 5009.

Content reviewed by Circle in-house team in July 2022. Next review due July 2025.

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