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Cycling and Artificial Heart Pacemakers

Background

On August 2, 2009 I completed a 100 km Audax ride, with another 30 km of commuting to the start and back again. The ride turned out to be a bit competitive with a nice pace being set on the second 50 km with a couple of other riders.  I felt really good on the ride, working a fair bit out front and when I got back to Anne’s I took the dogs for a hard walk, still feeling the buzz.

A couple of hours later this feeling would go a bit pear shape.  I had just settled down in front of the computer to check emails, twitter etc and I suddenly felt dizzy.  Next thing I know I found myself on the floor.  This scenario of going out cold was to happen three more times before I was taken to hospital.

Fremantle Hospital, based on my symptoms and my day’s riding determined that my likely cause for these feints was de-hydration and kept me over night on a drip. However, as I have a stent in my heart they recommended a echocardiogram and a holter monitor test. Following consultation with my GP Dr Steve Dorevitch at the Odin Road Medical Centre, I booked into Mount Cardiology August 7, 2009 for the echocardiogram and to be fitted for the holter monitor test.  Preliminary feedback from the echocardiogram was nothing structurally wrong with my heart which was nice to know.

So fitted with the holter monitor I participated in the Freo Wheelers Group 3 hills ride on Saturday.  My thinking was this was a good ride where I should get a work out and it will show any issues with my heart and hopefully put this aspect to rest.

Well the ride was not my best. I stayed on Mike’s wheel on the breakaway through to Mundaring without much drama and then that was the end of me. I struggled to stay with the group for the rest of the ride; not normal for me with this group. I can normally hold my own.

Saturday afternoon I was shopping at Coles when the dizziness came back. I thought great, here I go, I am going to collapse in Coles so I grabbed a shelf in anticipation, but thankfully nothing worse happened.  This was to be repeated on the drive home (not a smart move driving I know).

Once I got home, things settled down a bit and on Monday I made an appointment to see my Steve, my GP. Basically the outcome of that visit was I had to wait until Friday for the holter monitor test results.

Thursday evening, I got a phone call from Steve, indicating I needed to get into see my cardiologist, Dr Bernard Hockings ASAP. As it turned out my Dr Hockings was consulting in Bunbury on Friday and not available. Thanks to the efforts of Steve I was able to see Dr Michael Muhlmann, another cardiologist at the same practice, and bang I was booked into the Mount for a pace maker to be fitted on Monday, August 17, 2009. No riding and no driving till then!

The Operation and the Pacemaker

The operation was completed as planned on the afternoon of August 17, 2009. I estimate it took about an hour and the whole operation was done under local.  The pacemaker fitted is a Guidant Insignia 1 Ultra DR Ref 1291 as supplied by Boston Scientific.

After some issues with fine tuning it the next day, I was sent home. A few hours later after experiencing similar symptoms as to what I was experiencing before the fitting of the pacemaker, I was back in the Mount under observation. Of course the symptoms never returned and I was back home on Wednesday and back to work on Thursday.

Cycling and My Pacemaker

Okay, the real focus of this posting is to discuss my early experiences with a pacemaker and cycling.  Some pre-operation research suggested that I may have issues with my Garmin Edge 305 and the pacemaker.  Discussion with the Bill the technician from Boston Scientific indicated that I shouldn’t have any issues.

My return to cycling was delayed two weeks post-operation on the advice of Dr Hockings. As I understood it, this was more about the riding position impacting on the pacemaker rather than a pacemaker/heart issue. I guess I just need to let the pacemaker and my body properly bond before taking up riding again.

Well I am completing this posting some two weeks after getting back on my bike on September 4, 2009. Ignoring the fitness issues, how did the Garmin Edge 305 perform?  Bill was right, no issue there. However, I did have some problems with the Edge 305 unit itself and communication between the heart rate strap but I think this was just coincidence; an issue most likely caused by a flat battery in the strap.

It terms of actually riding with a pacemaker, my artificial pacemaker does not kick in above 135 beats per minute so if I am working reasonably hard it has nothing to do and I don’t notice it at all.  The whole episode/operation etc has no noticeable effect on my riding other than I lost a fair bit of fitness over the period off the bike.  I am however, getting that back fairly quickly.

Dr Hockings is of the view that I can resume my normal active lifestyle and early signs suggest this.

I have also now ordered a Sigma ROX 9.0 bicycle computer from Bike24.com and will update this page if their is any noticeable issues with the ROX 9.0 heart rate strap and my artificial pacemaker.

11 Responses to Cycling and Artificial Heart Pacemakers

  1. Paul Maher October 12, 2009 at 2:49 AM #

    Hi,

    I too live in Perth and approximately 6 weeks ago I also had a pacemaker installed ( if that is the term). Not sure of your heart problem but mine was a slow heartbeat and I too had a number of fainting spells and after one particularly long period of unconciousness I saw my local gp who then referred me to a cardiologist and the end result of which is that I now have a Medtronic pacemeker.

    I am also an avid cyclist and returned to the bike three weeks after the op. The first few rides were very difficult but I am not sure if this had more to do with the lack of fitness, nervousness or the pacemaker. However it is getting better evry ride and I can now start to hold the back of the bunch up smaller hills.

    The whole experience has been a bit of a whirlwind as up untill 8 weeks ago I thought I was a reasonably healthy 46 year old male with a young child. However with time I am starting to accept this situation.

    Paul

  2. Paul Maher October 12, 2009 at 11:49 AM #

    Hi,

    I too live in Perth and approximately 6 weeks ago I also had a pacemaker installed ( if that is the term). Not sure of your heart problem but mine was a slow heartbeat and I too had a number of fainting spells and after one particularly long period of unconciousness I saw my local gp who then referred me to a cardiologist and the end result of which is that I now have a Medtronic pacemeker.

    I am also an avid cyclist and returned to the bike three weeks after the op. The first few rides were very difficult but I am not sure if this had more to do with the lack of fitness, nervousness or the pacemaker. However it is getting better evry ride and I can now start to hold the back of the bunch up smaller hills.

    The whole experience has been a bit of a whirlwind as up untill 8 weeks ago I thought I was a reasonably healthy 46 year old male with a young child. However with time I am starting to accept this situation.

    Paul

  3. Aushiker October 13, 2009 at 4:40 AM #

    Hi Paul. Thanks for your comments. I had a pacemaker fitted for similar reasons – electrical problems. I was off the bike for four weeks and did experience some fitness loss and tiredness. My recovery has been a bit slow, more due to walking commitments and injuries than anything else.

    That said I did ride with the Freo Wheelers group three on Saturday and whilst I didn’t get any hill points or sprint points I was only just off the pace, so improvement is in sight.

    It sounds like we have had similar experiences.

    All the best on your recovery and getting back to full fitness and living life to the full.

    Regards
    Andrew

  4. Aushiker October 13, 2009 at 1:40 PM #

    Hi Paul. Thanks for your comments. I had a pacemaker fitted for similar reasons – electrical problems. I was off the bike for four weeks and did experience some fitness loss and tiredness. My recovery has been a bit slow, more due to walking commitments and injuries than anything else.

    That said I did ride with the Freo Wheelers group three on Saturday and whilst I didn’t get any hill points or sprint points I was only just off the pace, so improvement is in sight.

    It sounds like we have had similar experiences.

    All the best on your recovery and getting back to full fitness and living life to the full.

    Regards
    Andrew

  5. tompritch November 11, 2010 at 4:35 AM #

    I’m a avid bicycle rider. This year I have logged in over 1,500 miles. Recently I was in the hospital. As they were checking my vitals the nurse has noticed that my heart rate seemed to be low. So low that the machine would not pick it up. She and others had checked it the old fashion way. Later to confirm they hooked me to a AKG machine. It showed a 37 B.P.M. Concerned from this they referred me to a cardiologist. They provided me with a monitor to wear for 24 hours. The results of the test indicated that I had some pause’s in the rhythm of my heart beats. I’m scheduled for appointment with a specialist this coming Monday. There is talk of a pacemaker. Curious now to know how this could effect my future riding. From comments I see, it should not. Can anyone else comment on this and help me get a warm fuzzy feeling of this option?

  6. John June 11, 2014 at 8:57 AM #

    Cyclists with pacemakers may be interested in Riders with Pace, a Brisbane based group created to go in charity events: http://riderswithpace.wix.com/riders-with-pace

    • Aushiker June 11, 2014 at 9:39 AM #

      Thanks John for the heads-up. We need something similar here in Perth 🙂

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