EMT's and a pacemaker

My brother had his first pacemaker put in 10 years ago; it was replaced almost 5 years ago. It was checked in March and scheduled to be re-checked in May for battery life. In May it would have been 5 years old. He died suddenly this week without having any known problems. When the EMT's came and were told that he had implanted pacemaker, they said they were not picking up any signal from it.

Does this sound like battery failure? I called the measurement company and was told the EMT's probably did not know what to look for. I asked what would be the reason for no signal and was told that either a pacemaker would have been removed or battery failure. Well we know it was not removed and I am concerned about a malfunction or that the reading a month ago was wrong. Any advice?


Call someone!

by valbob89 - 2007-04-21 10:04:19


Our hearts to out to you on your loss. We always want to know what happened to our loved ones, so I don't think you'll want to take the paramedics' observation as the final word. Should you get legal advice, perhaps?

Like the others who responded above, I've read that batteries "fail gracefully;" that is, they don't just shut off. If the battery was approaching the end of its capacity, your brother's doctor would have advised him. Pacemakers are extraordinarily complex and reliable devices, as they should be. A sudden failure is very unlikely.

As I understand it, when the cause of death is in question, family has the right to ask for an autopsy. In any case, the pacemaker should have been (or should be) removed for testing. If the official next of kin (could be a parent or spouse, or you) hasn't gotten word on the official cause of death, then one should be asked for. Be assertive, if necessary; you may need to ask your doctor, legal aid society, or county medical examiner for advice.

You may be able to learn more about it if you can find your brother's pacemaker ID card (we get them for use when going through airport security, and in case we need to see a different doctor from our own).

I wish you well, and hope you find comfort where you seek it.



by Silversmith - 2007-04-21 12:04:49

I'm kinda new at this and I ain't real sure about your question. But if it is that you think your dads pacemaker quit because the battery run down, I'll show you what my doctor gave me when I was asking what would happen to me if my batttery quiit, It was 8 years old at the time and I had been told by his nurse I would need a new battery soon. He gave me this printout.

What happens when the battery runs out?

Pacemaker batteries are designed to become depleted in a slow and predictable fashion. When followed over the telephone, the steady decline in energy can be followed. When the battery is low but still has significant power left, the pacemaker will still work just fine, but give indications (peculiar to each manufacturer and model) that the time for replacement is nearing. When the ERI (elective replacement interval) is reached, plans can be made for changing the battery at a date convenient for the patient and the surgeon.

Even beyond the ERI, pacemakers continue to pace for a long time, and do not simply stop emitting electrical energy suddenly or unexpectedly.



by tbe7 - 2007-04-22 03:04:50

To begin with you cannot change the battery in most pacemakers. The entire pacer must be changed.
Years ago the pacers were made bigger with bigger batteries.Newer models are smaller for the patients comfort. It is possible for a pacer to mess up and put a
patients heart into a-fib, a condition where the top part of the heart beats very fast while the bottom part hardly beats at all. This churns the blood and can create clots
which can cause strokes. Iknow because it happened to me.

You know you're wired when...

You get your device tuned-up for hot dates.

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