Running after Pace Maker Surgery

Hi! Had my pacemaker implant on Aug 22, 2019, with a Medtronic Pacemaker that is "MRI, microwave friendly", since I also have arthritis and have to get an MRI annually.  I am retired Air Force so had my implant done at Brooke Army Medical Cente.  I have been a runner for 35 years, so my first question to the doc was when can I run again.  He told me 4 weeks from the surgery date, but I have heard through the grapevine from other pacemaker folks that 6 weeks is probably better.  Any feedback on that?  How long does it take the scar tissue to form to firmly hold the leads in place?

As for my running, I am not a 'hard-core' runner that does distance running - can't do distance anymore, with my spinal arthritis - so I mainly just do 5Ks - have done 50 5K races so far in 2019, and the last one was the weekend before my surgery - and I go at a pretty easy pace - about 10:30 - 11:30 minute miles - and also,due to my arthritis do an 8 min run/2 minute walk pattern.  I am a pretty 'relaxed' runner and do not really swing my arms vigorously like, say, a competitor speed runner would do. Even so, just want to be sure I don't dislocate my leads.  So, is a month sufficent time for me to get back to my running?  I have an appointment with the Cardiac Rehab folks on Sep 24 and if they give me the okay, I planned to start back with a very easy run/walk on Sep 25, which would be 2 days before the 5-week post surgery point.  Oh, and I have been walking.  Today (Sep 15) I got up to a 4.1 mile walk in preparation for my come-back, and I had no problems and felt pretty good. BTW, I am a 65-year old male. 

Thank you for any shared experiences and recommendations based on what you have dealt with.   

 

Scotty Dogg

 


7 Comments

2.5 weeks for me

by Pacedmyruns - 2019-09-16 02:44:52

My doctor cleared me run at  2 weeks post. But don’t follow me. I had no restrictions. Playing golf At 4 weeks post too. The heart beating at 100 is enough to dislodge leads and they don’t tell us to keep our heart rates down. 

May take a few adjustments to get it right for exercise. Not sure why you have a pacer. Tolerance is exercise is dictated by how you use the pacer with exercise. With bradycardia you typically don’t use it with exercise and should feel no different 

Depends on you

by crustyg - 2019-09-16 05:43:38

I had my PM implanted on the Wed and was back cycling (slowly) at the weekend.  Neither running nor cycling are likely to increase the risk of lead displacement - having a raised heart rate alone is unlikely to cause trouble.  However, other exercises *do* need some time before resuming - swimming is definitely forbidden until the pocket scar is well healed and the arm raising is unwise as well.

So that's one extent of what's *possible*.  It seems that few EP docs have much practical experience of managing keen athletes before/after PM, and they tend to be a very cautious bunch.  If you feel good, keep exercising.  It's the arm movement - stretching/reaching/lifting - on the implant side that needs to be gently protected while the leads bed in (fibrous tissue grows around the point where they are attached to the inside of your heart).  But that pocket where you PM sits *must* be protected against infection, hence the ban on swimming.  And very serious weight lifting would be unwise while the inflammation around the pocket settles down.

Otherwise it's back to having fun!

4 weeks

by Tracey_E - 2019-09-16 09:56:11

Ask ten doctors, get ten answers but I don't think any of them would restrict running after 4 weeks. My doc said to not get sweaty for 4 weeks due to infection risk, he wanted the incision fully healed. Nothing about running is going to affect your leads. If you are weight lifting or doing something with vigorous arm movements like swimming or golf, 6-8 weeks is better. If you feel ready to run at 4 weeks and your doctor said it's ok, trust your doctor that it's ok. You're already walking and feeling good, sounds like you're ready to get back at it. 

Smiling at what you call a nice easy pace. I train really hard to do a 12mm, when I do distance it's more like 14 and I do 30 sec run/ 60 sec walk. Slow is relative :o) 

We're all only really competing with ourselves

by crustyg - 2019-09-16 12:52:12


I echo your comments, Tracey_E.  I couldn't run as a boy, hated it, always cold and didn't know that there's a technique to it - who knew!

Took up running in my 40s to keep up with our teenagers doing the easy three of Modern Pentathlon, discovered I could do it, at a good pace.  Turns out that cold legs really drains performance - pretty basic physiology in fact.  So going out in shorts and rugby shirt aged 9 into the near freezing rain isn't smart at all - but we had no choice!

But there's always someone faster or slower - good luck to them!

But my competitive running days are behind me now - it's part of why I needed a PM!

Thank you all!

by Scottydog7296 - 2019-09-16 22:21:06

Thanks for the feedback!  Y'all make me feel much better about things.

I was told in late 2017 I needed a pacemaker, but I did not think so and was running well and feeling good sos did not get it, being a stubborn cuss.. I ended up doing 91 running races in 2018, my all time high for races done in 1 year. 2019 i started 'feeling it' a little and was slowing down, so this year I got the pacemaker.  After I had the surgery, my doc told me good thing - I had total block in my lower chamber - upper chamber would single to send up some blood to go to the brain and lower chamber was like it was deaf.  Doc told me after he got in there he was my heart 'electrical system' was pretty much shot and if I had not gotten it when I did, I probably would have either passed out on a run in another month or two or maybe killed someone while driving....so glad I got it.  I trust this doc, been my cardiologist for quite a while, so I took him at his word and thankfully got the procedure done right when I needed it.   I do feel much better, stronger, and less tired now.

I am not a competitive runner either. I just run for fun at races, carry my camera with me, and take photos before the race, during the race on my walk breaks, and after the race, just having fun with it. I am a very 'relaxed runner' and do not really pump my arms vigorously at all, more like I just hang them relaxed and free about near  my upper waist.

If you want to see some of my race reports and photos I've taken at them - very amateur photos, lol, but my friends seem to enjoy them - my public blog is scottydogreports.com

Again, thanks so much! I wish everyone sucess in all their endeavors and speedy healing and complete recovery to all! 

heart block is easy

by dwelch - 2019-09-18 00:43:58

heart block is easy to fix with a pacer.  I have complete heart block.  It is as if that is what pacers were invented for.  I had many years pre pacer knowing I was going to get one. I was a teenager, did stuff that should have killed me on a daily basis.  Very lucky to be here in hindsight.  Should have gotten the pacer much earlier.   As a teen when the doc got upset at me for something, I simply stopped telling him what I was doing rather than stop doing it.  Shoulda killed me.  Glad I have it now, no way I would have made it this far without it.

I agree with Tracey_E's answer with respect to pulling leads if that is your question. 

As you will see you wont want to be running too much before that, by two weeks you may still be trying to sleep on that side (washing hair, sleeping all night, sleeping on that side, using the arm to drive, each of these and more take between days and weeks, you dont just call it done on week X, some things are fine by day three).

The violence of the impacts on the body due to running are going to hurt and may require you to wait longer than other simpler activities, just walking around, driving, etc.  I would expect you will figure out from the front door to the curb if a particular day is the day you can start running again, and go from there.

 

Dwelch

by Pacedmyruns - 2019-10-01 03:25:15

Ummm heart block is not an easy fix for pacer. Bradycardia is. 

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