FALLS CHURCH, Virginia--Former Vice Pres. and Indiana governor Mike Pence now has a pacemaker, after surgery Wednesday in Virginia. The condition that led to his having the pacemaker is called asymptomatic left bundle branch block.
“A left bundle branch block is essentially when the left side of the heart’s conduction system isn’t working appropriately,” said Dr. Kyle Frick, a cardiologist with IU Health. “Typically the heart muscle is activated to squeeze through a series of electrical pathways on the left and right side.”
LISTEN: Dr. Kyle Frick talks left bundle branch block
While he couldn’t speak specifically to Pence’s condition, Frick said that typically if a person is truly asymptomatic, the heart doctor will sometimes order a screening, like an echocardiogram, or just keep an eye on it.
“The reason your provider might want to do additional testing is because left bundle branch blocks can be associated with coronary heart disease, previous heart attack and cardiomyopathies that could cause heart failure,” he said.
Frick said if someone with a pre-existing left block had damage to the right side, which could cause a complete block of the conduction system of the heart, which could cause dangerously slow heart rates.
“People would typically present with being light-headed or passing out and those patients need a pacemaker urgently.”
Pence’s pacemaker was put in after he experienced a slow heart rate.
A statement from his family said his doctors expect him to make a full recovery, which is very likely, said Frick.
“Maybe for the first 30 days after the pacemaker is inserted you’d have some restrictions, but that’s more related to actually the surgical side and the pacemaker side itself, as opposed to a primary cardiac reason you’d have restrictions,” he said. “After 30 days you’d expect most people would get back to doing everything they wanted to do before, and probably even feel better doing it.”