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Understanding Replacement of an Implantable Heart Device

Implantable heart devices help control the heart’s rhythm. These devices include pacemakers and ICDs (implantable cardioverter defibrillators). You have one of these devices. A procedure to implant (place) the device in your body was done in the past. You may also have wires (leads) placed to connect the device to your heart muscle. You now need a procedure to replace the device.

Why do I need my implantable heart device replaced?

An implantable cardiac device runs on a battery. This battery usually lasts for several years. The length of your battery life depends on how often your device is working to control your heart rhythm. A battery meter lets your healthcare provider know when the battery is getting low on energy.  When it has only a few months of energy left, replacement is recommended. If the battery reaches the end of its life, the device may not work properly or may revert to a low energy mode. A device may have to be replaced sooner if it stops working correctly, or if you develop an infection

What happens during the procedure to replace my implantable heart device?

The replacement procedure is often shorter and simpler than the first implantation. It's often done as an outpatient procedure, and you can go home the same day. In many cases, only the generator needs to be replaced. If the wires (leads) that connect the device to your heart are working correctly, they don't need to be replaced.

During the procedure:

  • The skin over the device is sterilized with cleaning solution and draped.

  • A new incision is made over the old incision.

  • He or she lifts out the device.

  • The leads are checked to make sure they work properly.

  • The doctor detaches the old device from the leads.

  • The doctor attaches the new device to the leads. This is tested to make sure it works correctly.

  • The device is put back under the skin.

  • The incision is closed.

  • The doctor programs the device’s settings to properly help your heart.

What are the risks of replacing an implantable heart device?

The most common serious risk of this procedure is infection. Other risks include bleeding, severe bruising, or swelling at the incision site.

Online Medical Reviewer: Anne Clayton APRN
Online Medical Reviewer: Lu Cunningham RN BSN
Online Medical Reviewer: Steven Kang MD
Date Last Reviewed: 12/1/2019
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