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Dr. D. Love
Dr. D. Love, Doctor
Category: Medical
Satisfied Customers: 19447
Experience:  Family Physician for 10 years; Hospital Medical Director for 10 years.
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My mother has had a pacemaker years and has been

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My mother has had a pacemaker for 8 years and has been told that the battery is running out. As I understand it, her heart is working at 30% capacity by itself. Mother is 98 and ready to die, having enjoyed her life up to now. She has signed that she wants no surgical intervention. She would like to let the battery run out so that she can go sooner.
I would like to support her in her choice, but also feel I need to talk to her about the consequences so that the choice is an informed one.
Apart from the fact that she would get very breathless, I don't know enough about what could happen. Could you help me?
Hello from JustAnswer.

There are many symptoms that can occur with a slow heart rate that is not corrected by a pacemaker. Yes, it can cause shortness of breath because of fluid accumulating in the lungs. It also can cause swelling of the extremities or abdomen, related to fluid backing up behind the right side of the heart. It also can cause fatigue, lightheadedness, or limited ability to perform activities because of inadequate output of blood from the heart. It also can affect brain function if there is inadequate blood flow to the brain, resulting in confusion or difficulty thinking clearly.

The severity of the symptoms will depend upon how slow the heart is beating, and whether the slow heart is continuous or episodic, which is more due to the underlying heart disease rather than a failure of the pacemaker once the battery is dead.

If I can provide any further information, please let me know.
Dr. D. Love and 3 other Medical Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 3 years ago.


Thanks very much for this clear response. Mother is obviously wearing out in many ways other than her heart. I understand that this is going to be difficult to predict, but:

Mother is hoping that it will lead to an earlier death. Is the lack of pacemaker likely to cause this? If this were to be the cause of death, how would it happen?

Whether death will be accelerated would depend upon the severity of the slow heart rate. If the severity is only mild to moderate, it may cause her to feel bad with the symptoms noted above, but may not be life threatening.

If it is of such severity as to be life threatening, she will likely have worsening symptoms until the stress on the heart causes an abnormal rhythm, which will cause the pumping action to stop.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Thank you very much for your help. I do appreciate it.

You are very welcome.