Nervous about a pacer change!

Hey guys! New here. Thought it would be helpful to hear other peoples experience with pacer changes / surgeries to help me ease anxiety. 

Heart block since birth, pacemaker inserted when i was 2 months old. Last time I got a pacer change was when I was 7 in 2001, it has been a long time since it has been touched! It was also changed in a different country to where I am now, Philippines in fact, so I know that there are lots of technology changes that has happened. I'm 27 now living in England. Doctors are always amazed when I say I've had this battery for 20 + odd years now. 

Last appointment I had was 3 months ago and been told that it is (finally) time to change the battery and been put for surgery in November. 

Im a bit nervous about the whole thing, old pacer transition to new 2021 technology advanced pacer. general anaesthesia is scary over all i've been told since they don't know where it is i'll have to be put under and obviously worrying about risks and complications. 


share your story? i'm sure it'll help me lots!



thanks guys 


it's easy!

by Tracey_E - 2021-10-27 09:44:10

I'm on #5. Replacements are super easy. If I get an early appointment, I'm home fixing my own lunch. 

Are they replacing leads? If your leads are in good shape, they just go in through the scar tissue, pop out the old one, test the leads to double check, they are good, connect the new one, close, done. 

It would be very unusual here to do general anesthesia. They usually do a local or conscious sedation (awake but don't remember). Is your current one on your chest or in your abdomen? If they are moving it to the chest I can see why they might use a general. I've had both. General takes a lot longer to wake up and not be groggy and sometimes the breathing tube makes my throat a little scratchy. I was nervous about conscious sedation the first time I had it but it was great, instantly wide awake when they were done. 

It IS amazing it's lasted 20+ years!!! I've never heard of over 15, and that's rare. I've never had one last more than 7, though my current one is 7 years old and still shows 8-9 years. 

Technology improvements are nothing but good news for us. This one will probably have a home monitor so you no longer have to go in for checks, they can do it all remotely. I got my first home monitor with my newest one. I'd say battery will last longer, lol, but you've had an amazing battery life with this one so maybe the new one will be about the same. Boxes get a little bigger (bigger batteries) then a little smaller (better technology) but overall stay approximately the same size. 

Good luck!!!! 


by triaslor - 2021-10-27 12:20:55

Hi Tracey! That's so helpful to hear. This is only my 2nd replacement as an adult maybe that is why I'm super nervous! 

I did ask the doctor about why they're doing general anaesthesia and it's something to do with they don't quite know where my pacer is placed. from 7 to 27 years old maybe they can't place it by just looking and feeling my chest. 

Not sure if it's by the collar bone or deeper in chest pocket or something along those lines, it's a very old st jude. battery they don't even have the proper reader in the hospital for these. it doesn't state a time or some sort of battery percentage when it needs replacing. my doctors  just rely changes on waves. 


Not sure if that made sense but that's what i hear when they talk! 

As far as i'm aware it's just a box change and not changing leads. are changing the leads take more time in the operating table?

new leads

by Tracey_E - 2021-10-27 13:50:28

New leads takes longer, yes. Extracting old leads is a totally different surgery. Ask to be sure, but they would usually mention if that's the case.

An xray will show them exactly where it is. My first 4 were submammary so very deep. When I got #3 they debrided the pocket scar tissue and rebuilt the pocket. They still used sedation. Maybe Phillipines is different, here they now use sedation whenever possible. It hasn't always been that way, my first two were done under general. Either way, it's not a big deal, you'll be home before you know it and probably not very sore at all. 

Pacer replacement

by doublehorn48 - 2021-10-27 14:35:31

I've had 5 pm's and one lead extraction.  I've had pacers on both sides of my chest and one that was placed in the pectoral.  Never had any real problems with any of my procedures.  My wife has always found the most qualified doctors for the procedures.  My advice is go to the hospital that gets the best rankings and find a doctor that has a lot of experience.  Good hospitals attract good doctors.  Good luck.


by ROBO Pop - 2021-10-28 20:27:26

WTH do you mean they don't know where your pacer is? Where do they think the previous surgeon stuck it? 

Bottom line I'm waiting on number 4, and can honestly say replacement is a piece of cake, well unless they stick it up your ...never mind. Oh and I've had my leads replaced after 10 years and again, no big deal. The Brits are great at this so relax and enjoy the upgrade. Oh and make sure to ask for a model that has GPS and gives turn by turn driving directions. I got the bilers model, rumbles and everyone knows when you are coming, kick starting is annoying though. 

Good luck

number five

by dwelch - 2021-11-01 22:19:51

complete heart block from birth.  on pacer number 5. all as an adult on the left side normal placement.  

starting as a child from reading posts on this site they may put them in your abdomen or somewhere as you grow the leads become a problem so they do kids differently and possibly why my doc waited on mine.  or dumb luck.

Others in your situation have left the childhood one and gotten a new one and leads in the normal placement on the chest/shoulder.   they simply turn off your old one.

You can discuss with them about removing the old one and its leads at some point in the future assuming I understand your situation.

As far as the replacment goes perahaps you dont remember the prior one.  It is a few weeks of discomfort, some things you can return to in a few days some things take a little longer before you can do them again without pain.  so in some sense for you it will be like a new one and in another sense not since you were old enough to remember your last one at least a little bit.

no worries, like Tracey_E and myself and a few others that started young, this will be quite normal for you.  always the youngest patient for that doctor (even after a few decades).   the tech helps in that it gets smaller, if you have a 20 year old then the next one will be much smaller.  And it can do more things, log some events, they can tune it and control it easier, etc.  Like getting a new car every 10 years even though the driveway is old.


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