Symptoms and Treatment for
Pacemaker Infections

What are pacemaker infections?

Implanted devices for stimulating the heart muscle [e.g., pacemakers and implantable cardioverter-defibrillators (ICDs)], can become infected just as any other foreign components in the body can. Although the presentation of these infections, effects, and treatment will vary, device infections are typically seen in two categories: pocket infections and deeper infections. Without the right treatment from the right specialists, these infections can be life-threatening — making it crucial to receive the highest level of care as soon as possible.

What are pocket infections?

The term “pocket infection” refers to infections below the skin that contains your device and the area where this device leads — also known as the subcutaneous pocket. When a pocket infection occurs, part of the device or the lead to the heart erodes or breaks through the overlying skin. This can happen without clear evidence of an infection; however, once it does occur, the site unavoidably becomes contaminated.

What are deeper infections?

“Deeper infections” refer to infections involving the transvenous portion of the lead, meaning the infection comes from within your body and is usually associated with bacteremia or another endovascular infection. Deeper infections can occur with or without the generator pocket and can also include device-related endocarditis — meaning there may be bacteria on the portion of the lead entering the heart, also known as the intracardiac portion of the lead.

Are there any other forms of pacemaker infections?

ID Care clinicians also classify pacemaker infections based on the mode, or source, of infection. Primary infections occur when the device and/or pocket itself is the source of infection, usually as a result of contamination at the time of the implant. Secondary infections, however, are contaminations of the device and the pocket due to bacteria from another source.

What are the symptoms of a pacemaker infection?

Some pacemaker infections will go unnoticed for months or even years after having surgery. Most times, signs of a pacemaker infection are subtle and include fever, chills, localized redness, inflammation, nausea, pain at the implant site, or drainage from a sore near the implant site. However, if the infection isn’t treated, you may eventually notice more severe swelling, significant weight loss, or blood in your urine. If you start experiencing any unusual symptoms after you’ve had plenty of time to recover from your implant surgery, talk to your doctor as soon as possible.

How does ID Care diagnose pacemaker infections?

Your physician will diagnose your pacemaker infection through an in-depth examination of the implant site, blood tests or cultures, and an echocardiogram. If your physician identifies an infection, an ID Care physician will assist in designing the most effective treatment to eliminate your infection and provide the best possible outcome for you.

How does ID Care treat pacemaker infections?

Pacemaker infections are usually not life-threatening if you receive the right treatment within the proper amount of time. However, when left untreated, pacemaker infections can attack your heart valves and spread to other areas of your body through your bloodstream, like the lungs and the brain. If you haven’t been referred already, ID Care physicians will guide you to a surgeon at one of our affiliated hospitals. Treatment for your pacemaker infection will involve removal of the implant and replacement. During this procedure, your surgeon will remove all the leads and any infected tissue and implant a new device, usually in a different location, along with antibiotics to ensure you remain healthy.

SOURCE: Mayo Clinic