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How Long Do Pacemaker Batteries Last?

Pacemaker battery life depends on how often the pacemaker kicks in.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 16 April 2014
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Pacemaker battery life can range between five and 15 years, depending on a number of different factors. Generally, the battery is evaluated during a pacemaker check in a doctor's office to get an estimate on how much longer it will function. If it is running low, a replacement will be recommended to ensure that the patient is never without a pacemaker. During replacement, the entire pacemaker unit is replaced, not just the battery, in a procedure similar to that used when the device was originally installed.

One determining factor for the lifespan of pacemaker batteries is the type of device being used. Different manufacturers produce devices with varying ranges of battery life. Modern pacemakers tend to use more energy because the battery does not just deliver shocks to the heart, but also regulates the pacemaker, logs data on heart rhythm, and performs other functions. When a pacemaker is implanted, people will be provided with an estimate on the range of battery life so they have an idea of what to expect from their pacemakers.

Another issue involves how much the device is used. If a patient's pacemaker kicks in only rarely, the batteries may last a very long time. Pacemaker batteries run down fast when the device needs to be activated regularly to keep the heart rhythm going. This is one reason why doctors cannot predict device life at the outset, as every patient's batteries will run down at a slightly different rate.

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It is also possible, although rare, for a patient to receive an original implant with defective batteries. Pacemaker batteries are tested before the device is installed, but sometimes testing doesn't reveal an underlying problem and they lose their charge quickly. Likewise, defective equipment can run down the pacemaker batteries rapidly. Extensive testing before surgery is designed to prevent this situation, but it can happen, and it's one reason patients must visit the doctor several times in the weeks immediately after installation to make sure the device is working properly.

When pacemaker batteries run low and need replacing, doctors opt to replace the whole device to provide patients with access to the latest pacemaker model. The leads will also be tested to see if they need to be replaced or if they can be left as they are. Risks of the replacement are similar to those of the original surgery, including infection, bruising at the pacemaker site, and adverse reactions to anesthetics used during the procedure.

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Discuss this Article

ysmina
Post 6

@MikeMason-- My pacemaker batter is at the end of its life and I got it just four years ago! My doctor said that he has a patient who had to get a replacement battery after just three years! So it really depends on individual needs.

I personally think three years is too short. Replacement surgery is not difficult, but there is a risk of infection and I certainly wouldn't want to be taking that risk every three years.

burcidi
Post 5

@MikeMason-- It hasn't happened to me, but it's definitely a possibility. The battery could be faulty or it might get used up very quickly because the person's heart requires the pacemaker to work very hard.

My first pacemaker lasted seven years which is normal. I think the average number of years one lasts is about eight or nine. It's been eight years since I got my second one and it looks like this one is going to last me a few more years.

stoneMason
Post 4

Has anyone's pacemaker battery died much sooner than it was supposed to? And when it happened, could you tell even before getting a check-up?

indigomoth
Post 3

@croydon - It's a nice joke, but I'm not sure you'd actually be able to get a new pacemaker if civilization as we know it ends. Pacemakers are really incredible devices and something that we take for granted too much.

A few decades ago, a person who had that kind of heart defect would just die. Now they can live out the natural term of their lives. It's a miracle, really.

croydon
Post 2

@Fa5t3r - From what I've heard, most people who are awake through surgery tend to have fairly hazy memories of it and will often doze through it anyway. It might be that your mother found it difficult to do this because she was so on edge from the pain, so hopefully if they do it properly the next time, it won't be so bad for her.

My father has a pacemaker and he and I often joke about what he'll have to do if there was an apocalypse or something and no doctors around to change the battery.

I told him that I would study pacemaker surgery if it came to that and just perform it myself. At least I'd probably have a few years to learn the basics!

Not that I would ever do that unless there was no other possible way to get the surgery done.

Fa5t3r
Post 1

My mother is living in fear of the day when her pacemaker is going to need replacing. She had to have a cardiac pacemaker put in a few years ago and she hated the process. They left her awake so that they could monitor her throughout the surgery, and they didn't numb her deeply enough. When it was time to thread a wire down her vein she jumped and screamed because it hurt a lot. After that, they numbed her, but she said it was horribly claustrophobic and just generally a bad experience.

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