Pacemaker surgery

Learn about the surgical procedure, costs and recovery for pacemaker surgery.

What is a pacemaker?1

A pacemaker is a small electronic device that’s placed under the skin on your chest, most frequently to treat an irregular heartbeat.

Hand holding up a pacemaker

What heart conditions require a pacemaker?1

A permanent pacemaker may be recommended if you have:

  • Arrhythmias (conditions where your heart beats abnormally)2
  • Heart disease
  • Other conditions that affect the heart rate

A temporary pacemaker may be recommended while your heart recovers from a heart attack, heart surgery or drug overdose.

This is a heart procedure, which is associated with serious heart health issues like irregular heart rhythms and heart attacks.

If you experience sudden chest pain, go to your nearest emergency department or call triple zero (000) immediately and ask for an ambulance.

How does pacemaker surgery work?3

Pacemaker surgery is performed in hospital and usually takes 30-60 minutes.

  1. You will have local anaesthetic injected just below your collarbone.
  2. A cut is made in this area and a wire is passed down a vein and into your heart.
  3. The pacemaker is attached to the wire and inserted under your skin just below your collarbone.
X-ray from pacemaker surgery
A man recovering from pacemaker surgery sitting with his grand-daughter

Recovering from pacemaker surgery3

You should be able to go home the same or the next day.

  • Avoid strenuous exercise for about a week, especially exercise that uses your shoulder.
  • Your cardiologist will be able to provide guidance on when you can restart exercise.
  • You will continue to have ongoing check-ups, usually every 6 months.

Getting pacemaker surgery at a public vs private hospital

It’s important to understand how getting your procedure in a public or private hospital differs.

The comparisons below are for planned procedures only, and exclude emergency surgery performed in conjunction with an emergency department admission.

Public system (Without health insurance)
Private system (With health insurance)

Will I avoid public hospital waiting lists?

  • No.
  • Yes.

Will I be able to choose my hospital?

  • No.
  • Yes.

Will I be able to choose my doctor or surgeon?

  • No.
  • Yes.

Will I have out-of-pocket costs?

  • No.
  • Yes.

What is the cost of pacemaker surgery?

In a public hospital

In a public hospital, pacemaker surgery is covered by Medicare for eligible residents.

Once you are discharged from hospital, you may still need to pay out-of-pocket for things like medicines and physiotherapy.

In a private hospital, using health insurance

In a private hospital, private health insurance can cover some costs of pacemaker surgery.

You may have an out-of-pocket cost if you use private hospital cover when you get treatment. You can minimise some of these costs by choosing a hospital and specialist that have agreements with your health insurer.

If you have an excess on your cover, you will have to pay for that out of pocket.

What is hospital excess?

What is an out-of-pocket cost?

How to find health cover for pacemaker surgery

Minimise your costs

Ask your GP for an open referral

Your GP is the one who’ll most likely refer you to a specialist – but they may not recommend the specialist you’d want to perform your surgery. Asking for an open referral can let you:

  • Choose your own specialist.
  • Find a specialist with good availability who can perform treatment at the hospital you prefer.
  • Find a specialist that you trust to perform your surgery.
  • Find a specialist with minimum out-of-pocket expenses for you.

Find a cardiologist with minimum out-of-pocket costs

To find cardiologists who work with HBF, just search for ‘cardiologist’ in our find a provider tool.

  • Look for the “Full Cover” tick mark or “Access Gap Cover” tick mark.
  • These specialists will help minimise your out-of-pocket cost.

Find a cardiologist

If you’ve already started working with a specialist

If you’ve already got a specialist, ask them these questions:

  • Do you have a Full Cover or No Gap agreement with HBF?
    If they don’t, you may need to consider if their fees work with your budget.
  • What hospital(s) do you operate in?
    You can then check if the hospital has a Full Cover or No Gap agreement with HBF.

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