Can You Scuba Dive With a Pacemaker?
A pacemaker is a battery-powered device for stimulating or steadying the heart, re-establishing the rhythm – and when necessary generating a painless electrical impulse to trigger a heartbeat.
Pacemakers are often needed for certain medical disorders, such as sick sinus syndrome, and they can also help correct damage caused by heart disease and heart failure. If you enjoy underwater activities such as scuba diving you may be interested in this article. Can you dive with a pacemaker? Read on…
Scuba diving medical conditions require that every potential diver be assessed individually. The two factors that will be taken into account are if the person is dependent on the pacemaker, and if the pacemaker is rated to perform at depths compatible with recreational diving – including an extra margin of safety.
The cardiologist will determine that the level of cardiovascular fitness is sufficient for safe diving by conducting tests:
- Exercising to a level of 13 in the metabolic equivalents of tasks (METS test) – this measures the level of energy exerted when engaged in physical activities
- Confirmation of possessing enough cardiovascular reserve to safely perform at a higher level needed in emergency situations
- Checking that medication doesn’t include blood thinners
- Endorsing there’s no significant muscle damage to your heart, no structural heart disease, and no holes in the heart
A cardiac pacemaker is located under the skin, so during recreational diving, it becomes exposed to the same extremes of depth as the diver.
For diving, an adequate pacemaker must be rated to function at a maximum depth of at least 40 metres and must operate satisfactorily during conditions of rapid pressure changes during ascent and descent.
Medtronic pacemakers are believed to be the best pacemaker for scuba diving – these pacemakers are engineered with Medtronic SureScan technology that is approved for safe use in many environments. They’re designed to last between six and 15 years, depending on the device and the type of pacing.
Research has shown that cardiac pacemakers that are exposed to a depth of 30 metres don’t show any signs of electronic dysfunctions – just a temporary increase in the pacing rate during pressurisation. However, these pacemakers exposed to a depth of 60 metres, later on, were found to be deformed.
These results confirm that implanted pacemaker patients shouldn’t be exposed to a hyperbaric pressure of more than 30 metres of seawater (msw).
Additional Heart Strain
There are potential risks with cardiac pacemaker and scuba diving. See a range of situations that could affect your heart:
Deepwater immersion – immersing the body in deep water causes the blood vessels from the legs to move into the chest cavity – increasing the volume of blood in the chest. This leads to all four heart chambers to expand, resulting in an escalation in cardiac output and an elevation in blood pressure
Heat Loss – during the loss of heat underwater the blood vessels that supply the extremities narrow and constrict – decreasing the blood to your heart and making it work harder. And raising your blood pressure
Pressure Increase – breathing air under increased pressure greatly affects the cardiac and circulatory systems. The levels of oxygen escalate resulting in a decreased pulse rate and cardiac output. The levels of carbon dioxide may increase and become potentially toxic
Stress – additional anxiety caused by the dive itself, and the knowledge that the dive may take place in an isolated area with a lack of medical facilities providing cardiac care may increase the pulse rate and the risk of an irregular heartbeat
Stay Safe as You Dive
When you go scuba diving in Playa del Carmen with Koox your safety will always be the first priority. Diving guides are friendly, patient, and extremely strict on precautions. You’ll get all the personal attention you need to be comfortable – and to enjoy the dive of a lifetime.