CARDIOVASCULAR
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HEART FAILURE FAQS

If you have been diagnosed with heart failure, you probably have some questions about receiving an implanted device or pulmonary artery (PA) pressure sensor and life after your procedure.

Look on this page for answers to heart failure FAQs. If you do not find your question here, use our site’s search box. Enter key words and phrases to find your answer on other pages of our website. 

You can also find answers to questions in our:

QUESTIONS ABOUT LIFE WITH A CARDIAC DEVICE

These questions include answers about pulmonary artery (PA) pressure sensors, cardiac resynchronization therapy pacemakers (CRT-Ps), cardiac resynchronization therapy implantable cardioverter defibrillators (CRT-Ds), remote monitoring and left ventricular assist devices (LVADs).

WHAT DOES THE PACING PULSE FROM A CRT-P FEEL LIKE?

The electrical pulse of a cardiac resynchronization therapy pacemaker (CRT-P) is very small. Most people cannot feel it at all. If you do feel a pacing pulse, your doctor may change the settings to make you more comfortable.

WILL A CRT-P OR CRT-D BE NOTICEABLE UNDER MY SKIN?

Your device will likely be noticeable under your skin. If you are worried about how this might look, talk to your doctor. In some cases, the device can be located somewhere that will be less noticeable.

HOW OFTEN DOES THE CRT-D DELIVER PACING?

The purpose of the CRT-D is to deliver pacing when the lower chambers of the heart are not beating in synchrony. For the most part, this pacing is constant.

DO THE SHOCKS FROM A CRT-D HURT?

People perceive the shocks from a CRT-D differently. Some people are not even aware of the shock. Others may experience a mild sensation. Patients requiring a life-saving shock may experience it as uncomfortable; although unpleasant, such a shock means that your device has responded to a dangerous rhythm, and it may have just saved your life.

WHAT PRECAUTIONS DO I NEED TO TAKE IF I HAVE A PULMONARY ARTERY (PA) PRESSURE SENSOR?

Most of the things you handle or work around every day are not going to affect your PA sensor. It will not set off airport security. Electromagnetic interference (EMI) from theft detection and airport security systems could make it difficult to take sensor readings. However, it is highly unlikely that you would be taking readings when you are close to these systems. Electric blankets or waterbeds could cause interference. If you have a waterbed or electric blanket, take your reading in another room. If you get a high PA pressure reading while traveling, your doctor may contact you and may change your medication or suggest that you see a local doctor.

IS IT SAFE TO ENGAGE IN SEXUAL ACTIVITY AFTER RECEIVING AN IMPLANTED CARDIAC DEVICE?

Other than during your hospital stay and recovery period after receiving treatment, your sex life should not be affected. However, be sure to follow your doctor’s advice regarding the precautions to be taken and when to return to any kind of physical activity. LVADs are not to be used in pregnant women or in women likely to become pregnant.

Read more about living with your treatment.

WILL I BE ABLE TO DRIVE AFTER RECEIVING AN IMPLANTED CARDIAC DEVICE?

There is typically a period of time that needs to pass before being considered for driving privileges. Talk with your doctor before you start driving again. In some states and countries, there are legal restrictions on driving after a procedure, so check with your local authorities.

Read more about living with your treatment.

IF I HAVE A CRT-P OR CRT-D, IS IT SAFE TO USE A CELL PHONE?

Cellular phones send electromagnetic signals, so they can interfere with your device’s function if you do not take precautions. To minimize risk of problems, keep your cellular phone away from the immediate area of your implant, and hold it to the ear farthest from the implant when making calls.

Read more about your device and electromagnetic interference (EMI).

WILL AN IPOD MUSIC PLAYER OR OTHER PORTABLE MULTIMEDIA CAUSE PROBLEMS WITH MY PACEMAKER?

There is no indication that compact multimedia players, such as iPod products or mp3 players, interfere with Abbott cardiac devices. Some limited data suggests that during device evaluation in the hospital or in a clinic, these players can disrupt communication between the pacemaker and the programmer wand within approximately 12 inches of either device. Again, this interference is only observed when the multimedia player is within 12 inches of the implanted pacemaker and the programmer’s telemetry wand.

Although there is no evidence that carrying a multimedia player device affects a pacemaker’s ability to provide therapy, be sure to carry your player on the opposite side of your body from your implant.

Read more about your device and electromagnetic interference (EMI).

WILL AIRPORT, COURTROOM OR OTHER SECURITY EQUIPMENT INTERFERE WITH MY CRT-P OR CRT-D?

The amount of metal used in Abbott implanted medical devices is very small. It is usually not enough to set off metal detectors; however, if it does, simply show security personnel your patient identification card. If they use a handheld wand, ask them to pass quickly over your device. Metal detectors will not hurt your device. Yet, be sure to move through the detector at a normal speed and do not stay close to it for very long.

Read more about your device and electromagnetic interference (EMI).

WHAT IF I HAVE A CRT-P OR CRT-D AND NEED CARE WHEN I AM TRAVELING?

If you need care when you are traveling, you can use the Abbott traveling patient clinic locator  to search for clinics in Europe, Africa, Canada and the Middle East that offer implantable cardiac device support for our CRTs. Clinics in additional countries will be added in the future. We recommend that you bookmark this page on your smartphone before you leave to make locating help easier, should you require medical assistance while away from home.

Read more about traveling with your device.

I HAVE A MERLIN@HOME™ TRANSMITTER. IS THERE ANYTHING SPECIAL I NEED TO DO WHEN TRAVELING OUTSIDE THE UNITED STATES?

Be sure to ask your doctor to contact Abbott support service to find out if your Merlin@home transmitter will work in the country in which you are traveling.

Read more about traveling with your device.

I HAVE A PATIENT NOTIFIER TO ALERT ME OF CHANGES IN THE FUNCTION OF MY CRT-P OR CRT-D. DO I STILL NEED TO KEEP MY FOLLOW-UP APPOINTMENTS?

Yes. The patient notifier feature helps to assess the mechanical function of the pacemaker and, to some degree, the device’s interaction with your heart. It is an extra feature that lets you and your doctor know whether your device needs attention between regularly scheduled appointments. It is important to go to your appointments to periodically assess your device’s function, to make sure it is working correctly, and, at times, to adjust the settings to achieve desired results. Likewise, your doctor needs to make sure that no problems are developing that are otherwise undetectable, but that may impact the effectiveness of pacing therapy.

WHAT MEDICAL PROCEDURES CAN I SAFELY RECEIVE WITH A CRT-P, CRT-D OR PA SENSOR?

These procedures carry no known risk to implantable devices:

  • Acupuncture with no electrical stimulus
  • Bone density scan
  • CT scan
  • Dental drilling and ultrasonic scalers
  • Diagnostic X-ray
  • Electrocardiogram
  • External counter pulsation
  • Fluoroscopy
  • Mammography
  • Positron Emission Tomography (PET)
  • Ultrasound, diagnostic

Read more about your device, magnetic resonance imaging and electromagnetic interference (EMI).

HOW WILL AN LVAD AFFECT MY DAILY ROUTINE?

LVADs are designed to restore blood flow throughout your body, restoring oxygen and nutrients to vital organs and tissues. This should make you feel better overall—less light-headed, less tired and less short of breath. You should be able to resume most of your normal activities with few exceptions.

CAN I SHOWER WITH AN LVAD? HOW ABOUT TAKING A BATH OR SWIMMING?

Once the surgery site has healed, you may be allowed to shower. Because LVAD system components are not waterproof, you will need to protect the external parts of the system from water with a specially designed shower kit. Ask your healthcare provider for more specific instructions on showering. Swimming and taking a bath are not allowed with a LVAD because some componenents of the system are outside of the body and cannot be submerged in water.

CAN I EXERCISE WITH AN LVAD?

Physical exercise is essential to help prevent the unhealthy effects of bed rest and inactivity. Activity restrictions include swimming, contact sports or jumping activities. Your physician can discuss exercise goals and guidelines with you.

CAN I TRAVEL WITH AN LVAD?

Due to the small, streamlined design of LVADs used today, most people can travel with very little limitation. Talk with your hospital contact about any travel plans, especially if you will travel long distances, such as by aircraft. 

WHAT OTHER THINGS SHOULD I KEEP IN MIND WITH AN LVAD?
  • Ask your healthcare provider about touching electronic equipment, such as TVs and computer monitors. These have strong static electricity that can damage the electrical parts of the pump, causing it to stop.
  • Tell your dentist and other doctors that you have an LVAD. Ask your doctor if you should take antibiotics before and after any dental work or invasive procedure to prevent possible infections.
  • Do not have magnetic resonance imaging, also called MRI. MRI uses large magnets that could cause you injury and could cause the pump to stop.

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