Is Pacemaker Implantation a Major Surgery?

Medically Reviewed on 2/5/2021

Pacemaker surgery is generally a minor surgery that may take around 1-2 hours to complete.
Pacemaker surgery is generally a minor surgery that may take around 1-2 hours to complete.

Pacemaker surgery is generally a minor surgery that may take around 1-2 hours to complete. The pacemaker is implanted under the skin of the chest, and there is no need for open-heart surgery. The procedure is done under local anesthesia, although medications may be given to make the patient sleepy and comfortable during the procedure. Most patients go home within 24 hours of the pacemaker surgery. Make sure you have someone to drive you back home after you are discharged from the hospital.

What is a pacemaker?

A pacemaker is a small, battery-operated device that sends signals to the heart to regulate the heartbeat. The pacemaker senses when the heart beats irregularly (arrhythmia) or if it beats too slow (bradycardia) and sends corrective signals to the heart muscles. Modern-day pacemakers can fix arrhythmias and help restore normal heart function. This helps people with various heart conditions live a more active and long life. The device may weigh just 1 ounce. A pacemaker has two main parts:

  • A generator: It contains the battery and the requisite information for controlling the heartbeat.
  • Leads: They are wires connecting the heart to the generator. The leads carry the electrical messages from the generator to the heart.

What happens during pacemaker surgery?

The following is done for pacemaker surgery:

  • Before the surgery, you will be asked to wear a hospital gown after taking a bath with a special soap.
  • Your doctor may ask you to not eat or drink anything after midnight the night before the surgery. They may, however, allow you to take certain medicines with a small sip of water.
  • You will lie on your back on the operating table.
  • The doctor or nurse will administer a sedative to help you get relaxed.
  • A local anesthetic will be injected at the site of operation. This ensures that you do not feel pain while you stay awake during the procedure.
  • The doctor will make a small surgical cut (incision) on your chest. The incision is generally given on the left side of the chest a little below the collarbone.
  • The pacemaker generator is placed under the skin below the collarbone. Rarely, the pacemaker generator may be implanted in the abdomen.
  • The doctor will then insert the pacemaker leads through a vein. The leads are guided into the heart using live X-rays.
  • Once the leads are at their correct positions, they are connected to the generator of the pacemaker.
  • The doctor will then check whether the pacemaker is functioning properly.
  • Once the functioning of the pacemaker is ensured, the incision is closed with stitches and dressing is done.
  • The procedure generally takes around 1 hour to complete.
  • The skin is closed with stitches.

What are the risks of pacemaker surgery?

The complications of a pacemaker surgery may include:

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Medically Reviewed on 2/5/2021
References
Harvard Health Publishing. Don’t Fear Pacemakers. https://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/dont-fear-pacemakers

Mayo Clinic. Pacemaker. https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/pacemaker/about/pac-20384689