Lifestyle Changes for Cardiac Device Management in Adults

Many people resume their usual activities after recovering from surgery to implant a cardiac device. However, you may need to adjust your lifestyle to help manage your pacemaker, implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD), or loop recorder. Experts from NYU Langone’s Heart Rhythm Center provide education and support to help you make the changes necessary to manage devices and heart conditions.

Refrain from Contact Sports

Your doctor can tell you if you are healthy enough to resume your exercise program after surgery to implant a cardiac device. However, you may be advised to avoid contact sports—such as football—that could cause you to fall on or sustain a blow to the implant site, causing damage to the device or its leads.

Having a heart condition is also a factor in your ability to exercise. Your doctor can discuss any additional restrictions with you.

Adjust Travel Plans

If your doctor determines that you are healthy enough to travel, you may need to make special arrangements in the event your cardiac device requires attention.

Because your device may set off airport metal detectors, it’s important to carry the device’s identification card, which includes information about it and your doctor’s contact information. Cardiac devices can go through the newer body scanners without difficulty. If you are in doubt, ask the airport security agent for a pat down search instead of a scan.

If you are awaiting a heart transplant, your heart failure specialist may limit your travel to within two hours of NYU Langone, in the event a donor heart becomes available.

Advise Doctors and Dentists

You should always tell a doctor, dentist, or technician that you have a cardiac device before you have any medical or dental procedure or imaging test. This is because some procedures can affect the device.

Though newer pacemakers and ICDs are typically considered safe and compatible with most MRI scans, some are not, because the powerful magnetic fields may affect the device’s functioning.

Device specialists at NYU Langone can assist you in determining if it is safe for you to have an MRI scan. This is based on your device, your heart rhythm, and the availability of other types of testing that may provide the needed imaging information to diagnose or manage your condition.

All implantable loop recorders are considered safe for MRI scanning.

Other procedures can cause a device to malfunction, such as radiation therapy for cancer, electrocautery to stop bleeding during surgery, and shockwave lithotripsy for kidney stones. Your NYU Langone doctor can help you weigh the risks of these procedures against the benefits.

Manage Electronic Interference

Certain devices with strong magnetic fields can interfere with pacemakers and ICDs. It is recommended that you avoid placing your cell phone in a pocket directly over your device.

Although microwave ovens no longer interfere with pacemakers or defibrillators, our doctors recommend standing a few steps away from a microwave oven that’s in use.

The following can also interfere with cardioverter defibrillators: high-tension wires, electrical generators, poorly grounded electrical appliances—such as metal detectors, and, rarely, MP3 players—and the lighting or wiring systems of some swimming pools.

Electronic article surveillance systems installed in stores to prevent shoplifting can also interfere with devices. The rule for entering and exiting these stores is “walk, don’t linger”—that is, walk through the detector quickly and do not stand right next to it.

If you think something is affecting your heart rhythm or device’s function, simply move away from it, and the device usually resumes normal function. If it doesn’t, contact your doctor.

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