Frequently Asked Questions

Does it hurt to have my device checked?

No. It’s a simple outpatient test that allows us to access the data stored in your device. A computer-based machine called a programmer, and designed by your device’s manufacturer, is used for this test. By placing a “wand” (an attachment to the programmer that looks like a computer mouse) over the device, it extracts stored information. Emory’s Arrhythmia Center staff evaluate this stored data. At that time, we test the lead wires (the wires that connect to the device and are placed in your heart) to ensure that they are structurally sound, assess the battery, and look for any rhythm abnormalities and trends. We can learn much about your heart health by looking at this data.

Remote monitoring/remote check? What is that?

A remote monitoring check is a check of your device that is performed remotely – often from your own home. With a free transmitter box (available from most manufacturers now), you don’t have to come to the office every three months to have someone evaluate your device. This simple test requires a home phone line (some DSL and VOIP services are compatible) to plug the monitor into and a power source. Most new wireless units require a one-time set-up. Then, monitoring takes place automatically to ensure proper device function. Wireless units (those that require no interaction on your part to send information) will alert Emory’s Arrhythmia Center staff to abnormal rhythms, system abnormalities and battery depletion. These units can eliminate a few trips to the office every year. Other remote monitoring systems require placing a “wand” over the device while the transmitter sends information.

At what interval should I have my pacemaker or ICD evaluated?

Physicians and health insurance companies recommend quarterly checks of all devices. In the event that certain medication changes or there are new health findings, you may be asked to come in more frequently. We often say, “When you have your car oil changed, it’s also time to have your device checked.”

How long do I have to have this device?

Most devices are implanted because your physician identified a health condition. This condition doesn’t have to be present all of the time to require a device, as some problems are intermittent. However, the device is placed to watch your heart rhythms all of the time. Devises are a “back-up” for some people and a full-time necessity for others. Once a problem is identified, in most cases, it is necessary to have the device indefinitely.

How long does the battery in my device last?

This is not an easy question to answer. We cannot, with absolute certainty, make a prediction on your implant day as to exact battery life. Think of your battery as a gas tank. Your device is consuming fuel by counting, storing, sorting and measuring information about you all day, every day. If you use the pacing and defibrillation features often, it uses more fuel. And, over the course of a few years, the treatment you need may change, increasing or decreasing that battery life. Talk with your Emory Arrhythmia Center staff about your individual situation. They will give you a better understanding of your battery “gas tank.”

Can my device prevent a heart attack?

No. A heart attack is the result of a blockage in the “plumbing” system of the heart. A blood vessel that brings oxygen rich blood to the heart muscle becomes clogged and the muscle is starved of oxygen, causing damage. Implanted heart devices work with the heart’s “electrical” system by sending a small electrical stimulus (pacing) to the heart when it isn’t beating fast enough or by delivering a shock (defibrillation) to abnormally fast heart rhythms that pose extreme danger to the individual.

How soon can I drive after my device implant?

This varies by individual. Not all arrhythmias or situations are the same. Based on your diagnosis, the circumstances surrounding your implant, overall medical condition, etc, your physician will recommend a time period for which you should not drive. This is for your safety and to allow time for healing. Typically we ask that patients with new device implants not drive for 10 to 14 days. Your physician will give you a specific time frame based on your situation.

What do I do if I get shocked by my ICD?

First, have a seat and take a breath. The shock from an ICD is the result of the detection of abnormally fast heart beats. Your true emergency is over. The device has delivered therapy and corrected the fast rhythm. Assess yourself. How are you feeling now? If you feel well, you don’t need to go to the emergency room. You can send a transmission of your information to Emory’s Arrhythmia Center (with your remote transmitter) for assessment. After review, we will phone you to discuss results. If you feel unwell after a shock, or if you receive more than one shock in a day, it’s probably a good idea to go to the emergency room (after hours) or call Emory’s Arrhythmia Center for advice.

What’s the difference between a pacemaker and an ICD?

A pacemaker is a small device (a little bigger and thicker than a half dollar) that is used to keep the heart from beating too slowly. An ICD (a little larger than a pocket watch) is designed to deliver a shock to the heart when it is beating abnormally fast from the bottom “pumping” chambers. All ICDs have a pacemaker built into them.

What is heart failure therapy pacing?

Cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT) is a technique in which a special type of pacemaker is implanted to coordinate, or synchronize, muscle contractions in the heart’s pumping chambers (ventricles). Pacing wires are placed into both the left and right ventricles. This can improve the heart's pumping ability in certain groups of patients.

Can I use a microwave oven now that I have a pacemaker or ICD?

Yes! Older pacemakers and older microwave ovens were not always compatible but today’s models are improved and have no adverse interactions.

Why can't I have an MRI with my heart device?

Because the FDA says that there is NO safe way to perform MRI testing without the possibility of causing damage to the heart muscle at the site of the lead wire interface.

Atrial Fibrillation