Sometimes a child needs a pacemaker to correct the heart’s electrical pathway and ensure the heart beats a certain number of times per minute. If the heart beats too slowly an electrical pulse is sent from the pacemaker to the heart to produce a heartbeat.
A pacemaker is a small electronic device smaller than a matchbox weighing between 20 & 50 grams. It has a battery inside, and it contains electronic programs, both to listen to the natural electrical signal of the heart, and to send a properly timed electrical signal to aid the heart.
Your child will have regular checks to ensure the pacemaker is working properly. Some visits will involve a chest x-ray (to check the leads) and a detailed pacemaker evaluation.
Usually years. The exact answer depends on how much of the time the pacemaker is in use. The batteries last longer if the pacemaker is only used a small part of the time; it is shorter if the pacemaker makes every beat. Battery life is also determined by how much energy is used to make each heartbeat.
The pacemaker gives a signal during the magnet test (part of the pacemaker check in clinic) or by the change in rate that tells the doctor the battery is getting low. A battery (generator) change is then scheduled. In general, only the pacemaker battery is changed if the lead is still working well.
Most everyday electrical items such as microwaves, drills and office equipment will not interfere with modern pacemakers. However, some precautions include; airport security systems, avoiding placing mobile phones over pacemaker area, avoid placing magnets over the pacemaker area and MRI scanning is generally not allowed. If you have any concerns, check with your consultant or cardiac nurse specialist.
Your doctor’s recommendations about sports depend mostly on the heart condition and not on the pacemaker. Children with normal hearts or those with mild heart defects can usually take PE and play competitive sports, however contact sports such as boxing or rugby should be avoided. Ask your doctor or cardiac nurse specialist about specific restrictions that may be applicable for your child.
If you would like to speak to a heart family whose child has a pacemaker or to join our closed ‘Pacemaker’ support group on Facebook please contact us at [email protected]