Pacemaker Implantation


Pacemaker Insertion Risks

Pacemaker implantation is a very common and low risk procedure and should a complication arise, it will be dealt with immediately. Although most people undergoing pacemaker implantation do not experience any complications, you should be aware of the following risks:

  • All patients will be left with a scar and a pacemaker (which can often be felt) under the skin.
  • Most patients will have some initial bruising. If you are taking aspirin, clopidogrel, warfarin or other "blood thinners" the bruising may be significant.
  • 1 in 40 - The pacemaker leads can move after the procedure - this may require a repeat procedure to fix the problem.
  • 1 in 100 - An infection may arise at the pacemaker site. This is a difficult problem to treat and may require the pacemaker to be removed.
  • 1 in 100 - A lung may collapse. This may require the insertion of a tube to reinflate the lung.
  • 1 in 200 - A blood clot may form in the subclavian vein. This is the vein that the leads go through to get to the heart.
  • 1 in 1000 - The leads can puncture the heart muscle, giving rise to cardiac tamponade that may be fatal.
  • 1 in 1000 - A blood clot can form in the legs and go to the lungs. This may be fatal.
  • Rare - It is possible although rare to have a life threatening allergic reaction to a medication, a stroke, heart attack or die as a result of a pacemaker insertion.

Obviously every effort is made to minimise the risks of the procedure and you should be aware that emergency equipment is available to deal with any complications that occur.

It is important to understand that these are average risks. Your individual risk may be higher or lower depending on a number of factors such as your age and general health. Your cardiologist knows these risks and has considered them before recommending that you undergo a pacemaker implantation.

  • Professor Sanders says...

    Atrial fibrillation is a consequence of several reversible risk factors - high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, sleep apnoea, and excessive alcohol. Your management of atrial fibrillation must include strict control of these risk factors.