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Recovering After the Procedure

Learn more

about surgery recovery from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

Treatment checklist
Recovery
Checklist

Use our checklist to plan for discussions with your doctor about recovery and rehabilitation.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

FAQs

Find answers to your questions about cardiac arrhythmias.

Cardiac Device Implantation and Heart Ablation Recovery

Your recovery time will depend on the kind and extent of your procedure, your general health and any complications. But you can take steps to help your body heal: 

  • Get plenty of sleep
  • Make sure to protect any incision site or implant area
  • Follow your doctor’s instructions about medications carefully
  • Ask your medical team questions if you need clarification
  • Wait to remove bandages until your doctor tells you to

Common after-effects of any surgery include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Problems sleeping
  • Constipation
  • Mood swings 

You can expect these to disappear as you recover.

Things to watch out for

Surgery always carries risk, and it is important to be mindful of how your body is feeling afterward. Your doctor can explain warnings signs, including issues specific to your situation, and instruct you about what to do if you have negative symptoms. If you received an implanted device, read any literature that came with it and pay close attention to sections labeled “warning” or “important.” Those sections contain important safety information.

It is also important to pay attention to your mental health. Be sure to let your doctor know if you experience: 

  • A lack of enjoyment of activities you once enjoyed 
  • Thoughts of suicide or harming yourself 
  • A tendency to avoid activities, people, intimacy or other situations that may affect your heart rate 
  • Sadness or excessive anxiety 
  • Fear of receiving a shock, if you received an ICD, that limits your daily activities 

If you received an ICM

Certain signs can indicate infection, which can be serious. These signs include:

  • Tenderness
  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Warmth
  • Redness
  • Drainage at the incision site
  • Fever

Also reach out if you have:

  • Allergic reaction
  • Excessive bleeding
  • Nerve pain or numbness
  • Excessive scarring
  • Cyst formation

Contact your doctor immediately if you notice any of these symptoms.

If you received a pacemaker with leads or ICD

You may experience tenderness at the implant site, which may be normal. However, be sure to call your doctor immediately if the pocket in your chest area where your pacemaker or ICD was implanted becomes painful, swollen or red (whether or not you also have a fever). Other reasons to call include having palpitations, feeling dizzy or fainting.

If you received cardiac ablation

Certain signs can indicate infection, which can be serious. These signs include:

  • Tenderness
  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Warmth
  • Redness
  • Drainage at the incision site
  • Fever

Contact your doctor immediately if you notice any of these symptoms. 

Also reach out if you have: 

  • Chest, jaw, shoulder or arm pain
  • A rapid heart rhythm
  • Unusual chest sensation
  • Numbness or tingling in your arms or legs
  • Excessive bleeding or unusual nose bleeds
  • Dizziness
  • Shortness of breath

These can indicate problems with your heart.

Other reasons to call your doctor include:

  • Swelling of your feet or ankles
  • Bruising
  • Blood in your urine or bloody or black, tarry stool
  • General weakness or loss of energy
  • Blurred vision or vision loss

Your doctor may place you on antiarrhythmic drugs for a while to help the heart recover its normal rhythm. You may have some arrhythmia episodes for about two weeks after a cardiac ablation procedure, and possibly longer. Starting three to six months after your procedure, your heart rate will begin to stabilize. Some people who receive ablation procedures need further ablation, although most ablations are successful.

Attend your appointments

You will probably have some appointments with your doctor in the days and weeks after your procedure. It is important that you keep these appointments. They allow your doctor to be sure that your incision is healing and, if you had a device implanted, that your ICM, pacemaker or ICD is working properly. In particular:

  • Your doctor may need to make minor adjustments to your cardiac device, which can be done wirelessly in his or her office. The device relays information about its battery, runs system checks and reports on your heart’s rhythms. Your doctor can evaluate this information and change settings, if needed.
  • After any incision has healed and your doctor has determined that your device is working properly, you will still have regular follow-up visits. Your doctor will advise you on how often you need to be evaluated. 
  • If you are an ICD patient, your doctor may need to see you once or twice a year or after you have received a shock. Be sure to discuss what to do if you receive a shock from your device.

Doctor recommendations

Your activities will be restricted for a period following the procedure. Your doctor will tell you when you can resume your normal activities, including sexual intercourse and exercise. In particular: 

  • Pay close attention to instructions about when it will be safe to lift heavy objects.
  • Your health care team may advise you on an appropriate activity level and make a recommendation for physical therapy. It is important that you understand why your doctor recommends a specific therapy and that you fully participate in your recovery. 
  • Your doctor might also recommend counseling to manage or reduce your stress levels, and you may need to adopt a more heart-healthy diet. 

Read more about feeling well long-term.

Involve family and friends

Discussing what to expect as you recover with those around you can allow you to focus on a healthy recovery. Be sure to keep the lines of communication open with those you love and be clear about how and when you need help.

As your caregivers, family members or friends may want to attend your doctor appointments with you. This can be quite helpful, as they can take notes, organize any materials you receive, handle appointment scheduling and provide transportation. They can also help you by:

  • Making arrangements for your recovery at home, including providing heart-healthy meals, assisting you with getting dressed and maintaining a stress-free environment
  • Watching for signs of complications 
  • Keeping you on schedule with medications and rehabilitation
  • Helping to keep your spirits up