Signs Of Pacemaker Battery Dying

What are the signs of pacemaker battery dying? Let’s see.

Pacemakers are used to help the heart beat properly. They work by sending electrical pulses through the heart.

There are two main types of pacemakers – implantable and external. Internal pacemakers are implanted under the skin and connected to a wire that lies under the skin in a chest cavity. External pacemakers are attached to a belt or shoulder strap and can be moved around with ease.

Pacemaker battery life is typically 10 years, but can last anywhere from 6-15 years depending on the type of battery used, how often it is used, and how well it is cared for.

In this article, we’ll discuss pacemakers and the signs of pacemaker battery dying.

What Are the Functions of a Pacemaker?

The function of a pacemaker is to correct slow and irregular heart rhythms. By doing so, it helps prevents symptoms like lightheadedness, palpitations, and fainting.

Some conditions that could cause a slow heart rate are sick sinus syndrome and heart block.

A pacemaker works on sophisticated software instructions and contains various delicate components including a battery. All these parts are carefully enclosed in a small metal container.

Pacemakers monitor your heart rhythm, beat-by-beat, and make important decisions whether or not it should pace your heart.

If your heart rate falls below a specific value, it paces by delivering a tiny electrical impulse to your heart thus stimulating your heart to beat.

Are Pacemakers Replaced?

Fluids and electronic devices do not interact. Pacemakers are devices that must spend their entire existence in an environment filled with fluids.

The insides of the human body are a very warm, salty, and wet place which is not the optimal location for an electronic device.

Therefore a pacemaker must be sealed hermetically to prevent moisture and fluid from getting into it.

The delicate hardware in a pacemaker must be designed to survive and function in such an environment for a very long time.

It is due to this that the entire pacemaker must be replaced when the battery starts demonstrating signs it is wearing out and not just the battery.

It is important to know that if pacemakers could be opened so that the battery could be replaced, proper hermetic sealing would be almost impossible.

It is worth noting that the battery must be permanently sealed within the device, alongside other components to make it efficient.

Pacemakers have a life span of 6-10 years.

How to Know if Your Pacemaker Battery Is Low

During appointments, your healthcare provider can also monitor the device information r through a phone transmitter or even on the internet.

The pacemaker will provide a warning several months before the battery runs out.

In some cases, a pacemaker will beep when its battery is low.

This allows your healthcare provider and you to plan a replacement procedure in the near future.

What Are the Signs of Pacemaker Battery Dying?

Signs of Pacemaker Failure

It is worth noting that a low battery doesn’t always lead to the complete failure of the pacemaker’s battery. 

But it is possible for the depletion of the battery to result in the malfunctioning of the pacemaker.

Some other factors can also cause the pacemaker to fail. 

Example: Loose wires, electromagnetic interference, etc.

If your pacemaker is failing, you will notice symptoms that are consistent with your heart condition.

If you notice any of these symptoms below, do not fail to consult your doctor

  • Fainting or loss of consciousness
  • Chest pain leading to weakness, dizziness, nausea, and vomiting
  • Trouble with breathing
  • Heart palpitations 
  • Much lower heart rate than usual.

It is important to check in regularly with your healthcare provider if you demonstrate symptoms that seem unusual like frequent hiccups or constant twitching of the muscle in the chest or abdomen region.

These symptoms could happen with pacemaker failure, but they could also be an indicator that your pacemaker’s battery is low.

According to data, around 31% of symptoms experienced when the pacemaker’s battery was dying indicated that it needed replacing.

Surgery Needed to Replace a Pacemaker With a Low Battery

The surgery needed to replace a pacemaker with a low battery is actually less complex than the original surgery to place the device.

The surgery involves a surgeon replacing the pulse generator which is a small metal box with electric circuits and a battery.

The generator is then disconnected from the leads which are the wires between the pulse generator and your heart.

The old leads are normally left in place, with a new generator attached to them.

The surgeon would not need to access your chest cavity like they had to do during the initial surgery.

In some rare cases, you may need the leads to be replaced, too, which could lead to a more complex surgical procedure.

Pacemaker replacement surgery is usually done with local anesthesia. It is an outpatient procedure.

It usually takes about two hours and you will most likely return to your usual routine within one-week post-surgery.

If you had leads replaced, it could take two weeks to get back to full form.

You should know that full recovery from pacemaker replacement surgery due to a low battery will likely be faster than the initial surgery, which takes around one month to recover from.

Why Can’t My Pacemaker Battery Last Longer?

Why Batteries Don’t Last Longer

Okay, theoretically the technology exists to make pacemaker batteries last a lot longer than they do right now.

Back in the 1960s and 1970s, some pacemaker companies produced nuclear-powered pacemakers that could be powered by plutonium-238—which has a half-life of 87 years—so they couldn’t run out of battery during the lifetime of the patient.

But, as you may well imagine, pacemakers, the human body, and nuclear substances?

Plutonium is a very toxic chemical, and even if a minuscule amount is absorbed into the bloodstream, death would be imminent.

And also, plutonium is a substance of great interest to government regulators people who had these pacemakers would face serious problems. Say they were trying to go on a summer trip to Europe.

Doctors who implanted these devices were required by the government to retrieve the pacemakers from their patients in the event of death and that proved impractical. What if they moved or the Doctor died first?

Also, all electronic devices are bound to fail at a point, so the components of the pacemakers would eventually wear out and fail. Having a battery that could remain full for 85 years wasn’t ideal

If a pacemaker fails because of low battery, that is a predictable event. By undergoing regular checkups, doctors can know when a pacemaker battery is going to wear out so a replacement procedure can be scheduled when it is convenient.

If a pacemaker fails because one of the other of its hundreds of micro components were to stop working, it could prove to be catastrophic for its owner. 

The pacemaker could immediately stop pacing, without any warning and its owner could stand the risk of suffering great harm.

If companies started producing pacemakers that could last longer than 6-10 years, it could pose a greater risk to its owners

It is why they designed pacemakers in such a way that the first component that would likely fail is the battery, and since that can be predicted ahead of time, the device can be replaced before a catastrophe happens.

Now, it is not impossible, of course, that in the future, other components needed for producing pacemakers will be made that are well and substantially more efficient and affordable and when that day arrives, engineers can design batteries that will last a lot longer than they do today.

Why Are Pacemakers Not Rechargeable?

So the tech needed for recharging batteries wirelessly which is called inductive charging has been in existence for decades now.

You can buy wireless chargers for your mobile phones today but you cannot buy chargers for your pacemaker and neither can your pacemaker be charged.

The first made Pacemaker from 1958 had rechargeable nickel-cadmium batteries. Most people thought that the use of rechargeable batteries would always be needed for electronic devices, especially implantable ones.

These old pacemakers were recharged by holding an inductive coil up against the skin of the owner and near the pacemaker, for several hours. Crazy? I know.

This procedure needed to be repeated every few days and it was not sustainable.

Rechargeable pacemakers could not work for two reasons.

  1. Even though they were rechargeable, NiCad batteries can only last for a short period of time, so those pacemakers had to be replaced soon enough.
  2. Humans being humans, some people would fail to recharge their devices because it was quite an uncomfortable and tedious process.

Lawyers also advised the pacemaker companies that if a pacemaker stopped working, the patients could bring lawsuits against them irrespective of who was at fault.

And so after a few years, mercury-zinc batteries were created that could help keep a pacemaker going for around two years.

Everything changed when lithium-iodide batteries were invented which could power a pacemaker for six to ten tears and so the need for rechargeable pacemakers quickly dissipated from medical conversations, but the threat of lawsuits would keep on dangling.

Conclusion

The invention of the pacemaker is an engineering feat. Their effectiveness and utility have improved greatly since they were first invented in the 20th century but there is still room for improvement.

A lot of money is being spent on research to develop even better and more efficient devices that are not just easier to implant but are safer, and more durable. One step at a time, science and mankind are getting there.

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