Complete healing from pacemaker surgery can take up to 6 weeks. However, people may need to restrict themselves from certain activities, such as heavy lifting, for longer. Factors such as age and overall health can affect recovery timelines.

Pacemaker surgery is a medical procedure to implant a small electronic device that regulates a person’s heartbeat. This surgery is typically for individuals with health conditions that affect the heart’s rhythm.

The primary purpose of a pacemaker is to ensure that the heart maintains an adequate rate and rhythm, improving the heart’s function and the affected person’s overall quality of life.

This article looks at what someone can expect as they recover from this surgery, including recovery timeframes, tips for recovery at home, and potential complications.

A colored x-ray medical image of a pacemaker in a person's chest.-2Share on Pinterest
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The recovery time after pacemaker surgery can vary and depend on individual factors such as:

  • overall health
  • age
  • the specific circumstances of the surgery

Generally, people can go home either the day of surgery or the following day. They may need to take some time off work for initial recovery.

Complete healing and return to regular activities typically occurs within 4–6 weeks. However, restrictions on heavy lifting and vigorous physical activities may last a few weeks to a couple of months.

A person’s doctor or healthcare team will provide specific recovery timeframes for the circumstances.

How long after pacemaker surgery can a person walk?

People can usually start walking as soon as they feel up to it, often before they leave the hospital. A person’s healthcare team may offer support to help them start walking around.

Doctors will encourage walking as it promotes circulation and overall recovery.

Most people can go home on the day of surgery. However, some may need to stay in the hospital overnight. This duration can be longer if there are complications or additional health concerns.

While in the hospital, a healthcare team may provide the following:

  • Heart monitoring: The primary focus following surgery is to ensure the pacemaker is functioning correctly. Doctors continuously monitor a person’s heart rate and rhythm.
  • Incision site care: Doctors may regularly check the surgical site for signs of infection or complications.
  • X-rays: An X-ray may check the position of the pacemaker and its leads in the heart.
  • Device programming and testing: A doctor may need to program and test the pacemaker to ensure it works optimally.
  • Pain management: Some discomfort or pain around the incision site is common. Doctors may provide pain relief medication while a person is in the hospital.
  • Assistance with walking: A healthcare team may encourage a person to get up and walk as soon as possible. This might be within hours of the surgery. Hospital staff, including nurses or physical therapists, may assist with the first few walks.

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), people may need to take the following steps to encourage recovery at home:

  • keeping the incision area clean and dry to reduce the risk of infection
  • following the doctor’s instructions for bathing, which may involve waiting 2 days before taking a bath or shower
  • being alert for signs of infection
  • avoiding lifting heavy objects — usually anything over 10 pounds — for several weeks
  • avoiding raising the arm on the side of the pacemaker above shoulder level for a few weeks
  • keeping pressure off the implantation site
  • staying physically active but avoiding vigorous physical activity for a few weeks
  • avoiding strong magnets

According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, the first follow-up appointment after having pacemaker surgery will be around 4 weeks later.

After the initial follow-up appointment, a member of the healthcare team will schedule checkups every 4–6 weeks.

People may also need to schedule an appointment if any of the following occur:

  • a doctor needs to reprogram the pacemaker for any reason
  • a person has any concerns about their pacemaker
  • an individual experiences any complications, such as infection

People may not be able to drive for at least a week after the surgery, depending on the advice of a healthcare professional.

Depending on the nature of their job, people may return to work within 1–2 weeks. Those with physically demanding jobs may need to wait longer.

Strenuous physical activity can resume 4–6 weeks after surgery. During sex, people also need to avoid positions that put pressure on the arms or chest until 4 weeks after surgery.

If a person is unsure whether it is safe to do a certain activity, they can check with their healthcare team.

Permanent pacemaker restrictions

Doctors will advise people on some permanent restrictions they must adhere to after pacemaker surgery. These include things such as:

  • Magnetic and electromagnetic interference: People need to avoid being close to strong magnets and sources of significant electromagnetic interference, such as:
  • Certain sports: People can still play contact sports after getting a pacemaker. However, they need to wear protective padding and try to avoid collisions.
  • Everyday electrics: Most everyday electronics, such as cell phones and microwaves, are safe for people with pacemakers to use. However, individuals need to keep cell phones at least 6 inches away from the pacemaker site.

Pacemaker surgery, like any surgical procedure, carries potential risks and complications. Modern pacemaker implantation is generally safe, though complications are relatively rare and can include:

If someone notices any signs of infection around their surgery site, they need to contact a doctor immediately. Signs of infection may include:

After surgery, the healthcare team will tell a person what to expect from their recovery and common problems to watch out for. People need to contact their doctor if they notice any of these things or if recovery is not going as the healthcare team said.

Pacemaker implantation significantly improves the quality of life for many people with heart rhythm disorders.

Factors such as age and overall health may affect recovery time, but most people can resume everyday activities within 4–6 weeks of pacemaker surgery.

Having a pacemaker may require some adjustments in daily life, but most people return to their typical activities with few restrictions. Individuals need to maintain regular checkups for pacemaker monitoring and functionality.