What are the most common pacemaker risks?

A pacemaker permanently monitors the heart rhythm in both the atria and ventricles.

The most common risks of a pacemaker are infection at the pacemaker site, bleeding or bruising, adverse reactions to anesthesia, and implantation of a defective pacemaker. These risks are still quite low, especially in reputable medical facilities. Rarer pacemaker risks include collapsed lung, puncture of the pericardial sac, and pacemaker displacement or faulty initial placement leading to problems in the future. These complications may require surgical treatment.

Patients can get infections where the pacemaker is implanted.

A pacemaker is a small device inserted into a patient’s chest to regulate the heartbeat. It includes leads connected to the heart, along with a small generator. Surgery to implant the pacemaker can be performed under general, regional or local anesthesia and is performed by a surgeon with the assistance of a radiologist to help position the electrodes properly. Typically, concerns associated with pacemaker implantation are considered less serious than the risks of not using a pacemaker, and pacemaker risks are carefully evaluated on an individual basis before recommending surgery.

Pacemakers can greatly increase life expectancy in patients with congenital heart defects.

Infections can occur even when control of the surgical site is very tight, as sometimes skin bacteria enter the wound or contaminants are accidentally introduced with tools. People who experience heat, tenderness, or swelling after a pacemaker is implanted should notify the surgeon and be evaluated for infection. Patients taking blood thinners, in particular, are at risk for localized bruising and bleeding when a pacemaker is installed.

A lack of proper hygiene on the part of the physician performing the implantation procedure can cause several problems.

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Adverse anesthesia reactions are also uncommon as patients are screened carefully for any obvious risk factors, but they can occur. Likewise, patients may also have a reaction to the tracer dye used by the radiologist to help guide the surgeon. The other common pacemaker risk, involving implantation of a faulty device, is also relatively uncommon. These devices are rigorously tested prior to installation to avoid situations where surgeons have to return to place a new pacemaker.

Adverse reactions to anesthesia are a possible risk of receiving a pacemaker.

Of the rarer pacemaker risks, perforated lungs and pericardial sacs sometimes occur if the radiologist and surgeon do not coordinate, the patient has especially friable tissue, or something goes wrong during the procedure. Likewise, incorrect device placement is uncommon, but sometimes it does occur and patients sometimes dislodge the device or electrodes during vigorous activity after surgery.

Pericardial sac puncture is a potential risk associated with a pacemaker.

When a pacemaker is recommended for a patient, the surgeon must examine the pacemaker risks and warning signs of complications so that the patient can take immediate action if a problem arises. Patients with pacemakers usually have no problems and can return to a normal level of physical activity after recovering from surgery.

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