The most common cause of pacemaker failure is an infection in the incision site or pacemaker pocket. This does not typically cause the device to fail, but it must be replaced to prevent further infections from occurring. Certain devices such as a cell phone may also cause a pacemaker to malfunction if used too close to the chest. Very rarely a pacemaker malfunction will be caused by a faulty generator or leads.
Infection in the pocket where the generator is inserted is the most common type of pacemaker failure. Although the device itself is generally still sound, some patients may be more prone to infections with certain models than others. Those with compromised immune systems may be more likely to get an infection using any model than those with healthy immune function. When infection occurs, the entire pacemaker system is typically replaced to remove any bacteria which may have accumulated there. Sometimes a specialized antibacterial mesh liner is inserted with the new generator to help avoid recurrent infection.
Another, less common, reason for pacemaker failure,is that the patient used a device which was not compatible with the pacemaker too close to the generator. The most common of these devices is the cellular phone. When used properly, mobile phones do not have any negative effects on the pacemaker generator. They shouldn't, however, be carried directly above the chest, as in a shirt breast pocket. Microwave ovens are not dangerous to pacemaker function when used as directed.
Very rarely, pacemaker failure may be caused by a malfunction in the system itself. This more commonly occurs in the generator, but can occasionally affect the leads as well. While not unheard of, this type of failure is very rare. To ensure proper working function, patients are advised to attend regular appointments with their doctors to check the device using a special device. Even more rarely, a device model will be recalled due to a tendency to break or not function properly.
Patients must also attend yearly visits so that their doctor can check the batteries in their generators. Although not exactly a form of pacemaker failure, patients who do not have the batteries in their devices changes every five to eight years run of the risk of the pacemaker running low on power and impaired function. This does not generally occur as long as regular maintenance appointments are kept on time each year. Sometimes, additional appointments can be kept over the phone.