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Surgery Concerns After Pacemaker or ICD Implant

Posted Jul 22 2010 8:13pm

photo by Filomena Scalise

For example, one might need to have joint surgery or their gallbladder removed.  Any type of surgery with a cardiac device becomes a little more complicated than before the device was implanted.  Why? The problem is that electrical signals sent off by some surgical instruments can interfere with the functioning of the pacemaker or defibrillator.

To give a specific example, a surgical instrument called a “Bovie” or electrocautery is a great tool during surgery to burn away small blood vessels and limit bleeding.  When in use, the Bovie creates interference on the EKG that the pacemaker or defibrillator thinks is a fast and erratic heartbeat.  As a result, the cardiac device may not work properly during the times when the Bovie is being used.

There is an easy solution! Your cardiologist is usually involved in the process of clearing you for any type of surgery.  They can recommend that a magnet be placed over the cardiac device if needed.  A large magnet over a pacemaker causes it to signal the heartbeat without paying attention to the erratic Bovie signals.  When a large magnet is placed over a defibrillator, this prevents the defibrillator from giving inappropriate shocks related to the interference of the Bovie.  No matter which device you have, a magnet is usually the solution to preventing unwanted problems during the surgery.


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