Caregiver talking to senior resident

What to Know About Pacemaker Surgery & Recovery in Elderly Patients

Have you or a senior loved one recently been informed by your doctor that you’ll need to have a pacemaker implant? If so, you might be wondering, is pacemaker surgery safe for elderly patients? Or, what are the side effects of having a pacemaker, and how long does it take to recover from a pacemaker surgery? Have no fear, our seasoned staff at Northland Rehabilitation & Health Care Center is here to answer your questions!

Is Pacemaker Surgery Safe for Elderly PATIENTS?

It’s not unusual to have concerns when contemplating undergoing surgery as a senior citizen. The key is to understand what type of surgery you’ll be having, as well as the possible risks and complications. First, it’s important to note the difference between major and minor surgery: Major surgery involves a more invasive operation in which the body is opened and there is major trauma to the tissues; it carries a higher risk of infection and usually requires a lengthier recovery period. In contrast, minor surgery involves operations where only the mucus membranes or skin and connective tissue is resected using small incisions; minor surgery often requires less recovery time and involves less risk of infection. Typically, minor surgery is considered safe for elderly patients, where major surgery carries more risk. So, is getting a pacemaker a major surgery? Or is it a minor surgery?

In most cases, pacemaker surgery – barring complications – is a minor surgery that should only take around one to two hours to perform. During this surgery, you’ll most likely be awake, and the surgery will be performed using local anesthesia to numb the incision site. While every surgery has its risks, pacemaker surgery is generally considered low-risk and safe for elderly patients. Following the procedure, you may be asked to stay in the hospital for a day or two while the physicians attend to your incision site and program the pacemaker to fit your pacing needs.

What are the Side Effects of Having a Pacemaker?

Once you have a pacemaker in place, it will help you to monitor and maintain a normal heart rate. A normal heart rate with pacemaker varies by individual but typically falls between 50 to 70 beats per minute.

While pacemakers are generally considered safe, there are a few side effects that you will want to keep an eye out for following your surgery. These include:

  1. An infection at the pacemaker incision/implantation site – be sure to avoid touching the incision site before it has adequately healed!
  2. Swelling, bleeding or bruising at the implant site, especially if you are taking blood thinners.
  3. An allergic reaction to the dye used during the procedure, or to the anesthesia used to block pain during the procedure.
  4. In more severe cases, a collapsed lung.

How Long Does it Take to Recover From a Pacemaker Surgery?

When it comes to recovering after a pacemaker surgery, your recovery time should be fairly quick. You might be able to go home on the same day as the surgery, or as previously mentioned, you may be asked to stay in the hospital for a day or two to monitor the pacemaker’s effectiveness or to allow your doctor to adjust or program the pacing to your specific needs.

Short-term, your doctor might recommend avoiding heavy lifting or more strenuous activity, especially those activities that require your upper body strength and could irritate or aggravate the incision site. However, your recovery should be complete in approximately four weeks’ time.

Long-term, your pacemaker should last approximately 5 to 15 years before you need to replace the battery. At that point, you’ll need to undergo another pacemaker surgery to change the battery; however, the surgery for pacemaker battery replacement in elderly patients is usually less invasive and requires less time for recovery than the initial implant procedure.

Recover and Renew at Northland Rehabilitation

If you’ve recently had a pacemaker implanted and your doctor has recommended rehabilitation or physical therapy, look no further than the wellness center at Northland Rehabilitation & Health Care.

Located in the heart of the Northland in Kansas City, Missouri, our community is just minutes away from shopping, restaurants, parks and hospitals. Our experienced staff will work with you, your physician, specialty doctors and family to develop an individualized care plan based on your specific needs and health goals, all with the purpose of getting you back on your feet faster and on the road to recovery.

Learn more about what Northland Rehabilitation has to offer. Give us a call at 816-702-8000 – we look forward to answering your questions!