What to do when a pacemaker defibrillator goes off

Pacemaker defibrillators are small medical devices that are implanted into the chest of a person with a heart condition. When the heart rhythm becomes abnormal, the pacemaker defibrillator "goes off" and delivers a small electrical shock to the heart to correct the abnormal heart rhythm.

To maintain good health, those with pacemaker defibrillators and those who are candidates for having one implanted, need to know what to do when the pacemaker defibrillator goes off.

Safety and Relaxation

Before all else, make sure you are in a safe environment. For example, if you are operating machinery, turn the machinery off so that you will not be hurt if the heart problem that caused the pacemaker defibrillator to go off makes you lose control of the equipment. If you are standing, sit so that you do not fall if you lose consciousness. Then use relaxation techniques such as controlled breathing and meditation to return your heart rate to normal.


Get someone to assist you. The best way to do this is to call an ambulance and to have someone who is present remain with you until it comes. If possible, contact the hospital to which the emergency personnel will transport you or which inserted the pacemaker defibrillator. If you cannot do this on your own because of your condition, the emergency personnel can do it for you en route to the hospital. This is important because your cardiologist needs to know that you are having an episode in order to treat you and to assess the functionality of the pacemaker defibrillator he prescribed to you.

Assessment of Environment

If you feel fine even though the defibrillator went off, look at your surroundings. Determine whether or not an outside factor has influenced the pacemaker defibrillator performance. For example, radios, cell phones or battery-operated tools and devices can generate magnetic fields that can set a pacemaker defibrillator off even when you are not having a heart episode. If you were engaged in activities that put you near any of these devices, it may be that there is nothing wrong at all with you. Even if you are fine, report the pacemaker defibrillator event to your cardiologist. If you are experiencing chest pain, dizziness, fainting or shortness of breath, it is more likely that your environment is not the problem and that you really do need medical attention.