What is a pacemaker?

A pacemaker is a device that changes the pattern of the heart’s contractions by generating its own electrical impulse.  A pacemaker uses batteries to send electrical impulses to your heart to help it pump properly.   An electrode is placed next to your heart wall and small electrical charges travel through the wire to your heart.  Most pacemakers turn themselves on and off as needed.  These are called “demand” pacemakers.

What cautions should I be aware of if I have a pacemaker?

Since your pacemaker generates its own electrical signal. You need to be aware of things in your surroundings that could affect that electrical signal.  You should always carry a wallet I.D. card with you, and let any medical or dental personnel know that you have a pacemaker before any procedure.

In the home:

Most home appliances are safe.  They have shown not to damage pacemakers. Some common household devices have the potential to inhibit an occasional single beat.  This is generally not a problem.

Cellular phones:

The type of cellular phones currently used in the United States are safe to use for individuals with pacemakers.  They are currently based on technology using less than 3 watts.  As technology changes, you should investigate any possible new risks to your pacemaker.

Heavy equipment:

Power-generating equipment and arc welding equipment can inhibit your pacemaker.  If you work near this type of equipment, you need to be aware of the associated risks.  Again, if you have any questions, ask your doctor.

Medical / Dental equipment:

Several devices used in medicine can affect your pacemaker.  Ask you doctor or healthcare provider about any risks to individuals with pacemakers before undergoing ANY medical or dental procedure. Some procedures can be done safely by reprogramming your pacemaker.  If this is the case, careful follow-up for a period of time after the procedure is required to ensure that your pacemaker continues to work correctly.  The list below is a partial list of known medical devices that have the potential to interfere with your pacemaker.

MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging)

Dental equipment appears to be safe for individuals with pacemakers.


X-rays used for diagnostic purposes do not appear to negatively affect pacemakers.

Radiation therapy


Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) is a method often used to relieve pain.  If you have a bipolar pacemaker TENS units generally do not affect your pacemaker in a negative manner.  If you have a unipolar pacemaker, a TENS unit can interfere with your pacemaker.  This can be resolved by reprogramming your pacemaker.  If you are not certain what type of pacemaker you have, ask your doctor before undergoing therapy with a TENS unit.