With the increasing use of implants for various medical conditions, a common question that arises is whether the implant itself can lead to feelings of tiredness or fatigue. Implants are artificial devices surgically placed inside the body to replace or enhance the function of an organ or body part. Some examples include cardiac pacemakers, artificial joints, breast implants, and spinal cord stimulators. While implants provide many benefits, some people report experiencing fatigue or low energy levels after getting one. This article will explore the possible reasons why implants may cause tiredness and what can be done about it.
What types of implants may lead to fatigue?
Any type of implant has the potential to cause fatigue, but some are more associated with this side effect than others:
- Cardiac pacemakers – pacemakers help control abnormal heart rhythms but the surgery and device adjustments can be taxing on the body.
- Pain pumps – these pumps deliver pain medication directly to the spinal cord and require refilling every 1-3 months which may be tiring.
- Breast implants – fatigue is common after breast augmentation or reconstruction surgery as the body recovers.
- Cochlear implants – these implants for hearing loss require adjustment as the brain adapts to new auditory input.
- Vagal nerve stimulators – used for epilepsy and depression, side effects like fatigue, voice changes, and cough are common.
- Deep brain stimulators – surgery places electrodes in the brain to reduce Parkinson’s disease and dystonia symptoms, often causing fatigue.
The first few weeks after any implant surgery tends to be the most tiring as the body heals. But even after recovery, the ongoing presence of an implant can use extra energy and contribute to feelings of fatigue in some cases.
What causes implant-related fatigue?
There are a few reasons why having an implant may leave you feeling worn out or low on energy:
Your body is working harder
Having a foreign object like an implant permanently placed inside your body requires extra work for your immune system. Increased immune activity to keep the area stable taxes your overall energy levels. Even basic implant maintenance like charging batteries or refilling medication uses body resources.
Surgical recovery takes a toll
Any surgery is taxing on the body. Anesthesia, incisions, and pain all require a recovery period with increased needs for rest. Your sleep cycles and energy levels may be disrupted after implant surgery until tissues heal and inflammation subsides.
Adjusting to new sensations
An implant often creates new stimuli – like electrical pulses from a pacemaker or sound from a cochlear implant – that your body must acclimate to. Adapting to these new inputs means your brain is working hard, which can be mentally and physically draining.
Some implants involve administration of medication, like pain pumps or drug-eluting stents. Side effects of these medications, like nausea or dizziness, can result in fatigue. Certain pain medications are also sedating. Steroids given post-surgery may also temporarily impact energy.
Getting an implant often requires changes to regular routines, activity levels, and sleep habits that can be exhausting. Stress about managing an implant can also contribute to increased fatigue through production of stress hormones.
Sometimes implant-related fatigue is due to an underlying health condition. For example, if you receive a pacemaker for heart failure, the heart condition itself may cause fatigue unrelated to the device. Chronic health issues like diabetes, anemia, and thyroid disorders can also worsen fatigue.
When does implant-related fatigue improve?
For implants that require surgery like joint replacements or pacemakers, the worst fatigue usually resolves within 4-6 weeks after the operation. Breast implant patients tend to feel most tired 2-3 weeks post-op. Cochlear implant users may experience gradual improvements over 3-6 months as the brain adjusts.
It’s advisable to give your body ample recovery time before assuming any lingering fatigue is permanent. Your energy levels can continue increasing for up to a year. However, some degree of fatigue may remain indefinitely with certain implants due to ongoing immune activity or stimulation effects.
Tips for coping with implant-related fatigue
Here are some ways to help manage fatigue from your implant:
- Take naps and rest as needed in the weeks after surgery.
- Ask your provider about temporarily reducing any stimulation from the device.
- Discuss adding medications like vitamins that may boost your energy.
- Use relaxation techniques to reduce stress.
- Focus on nutritious food and hydration.
- Exercise gently like walking or swimming once approved.
- Listen to your body’s signals and adjust activity levels accordingly.
- Communicate with your provider if fatigue persists beyond 8-12 weeks.
When to seek medical advice
Contact your provider if you experience any of the following:
- Fatigue or tiredness that does not improve after 8-12 weeks
- Excessive drowsiness or sleepiness
- Ongoing muscle weakness
- Shortness of breath or chest pain
- Fevers, chills, or sweating
- Redness, swelling, or warmth around the implant site
- Any new medical problems or symptoms
Sudden or severe fatigue could indicate an implant complication, underlying infection, improper positioning, or device malfunction needing medical attention. Don’t ignore unexplained exhaustion.
Can the implant settings be adjusted to reduce fatigue?
For some implantable devices like deep brain stimulators or vagal nerve stimulators, your provider can fine-tune the electrical signals in ways that may help minimize fatigue:
- Reducing the voltage or stimulation intensity
- Changing the stimulation frequency
- Adjusting which contacts are activated
- Modifying the stimulation schedule or duration
Your provider will work to optimize the settings so you have therapeutic benefit without excessive fatigue. It often takes some trial and error to find the right balance.
What role can medications play in relieving fatigue?
Certain medications may help relieve implant-related fatigue:
- Corticosteroids – these anti-inflammatory drugs treat swelling and pain after surgery.
- Thyroid hormones – if thyroid dysfunction is contributing to fatigue.
- Erythropoiesis-stimulating agents – can treat anemia-related fatigue.
- Psychostimulants – like modafinil may be used for chronic fatigue when other causes are ruled out.
- Antidepressants – if fatigue stems from depression, SSRIs may help.
- Medication changes – adjusting medications causing fatigue as a side effect.
Talk to your doctor before starting any new medications as some can interact with implant function or surgery recovery.
Is fatigue a sign the implant is being rejected?
Most of the time, fatigue is NOT a direct sign of implant rejection. Implants have special coatings and materials designed to avoid rejection. Fatigue is usually due to normal surgical recovery, your body adjusting, or an underlying condition.
However, sudden severe fatigue with other symptoms like fever, redness/swelling, or implant site pain should be evaluated for possible rejection or infection. The risks are higher shortly after surgery. Rarely, the immune system rejects an implant months or years later.
Can anxiety or depression post-implant surgery cause fatigue?
Yes, mental health conditions like anxiety or depression can develop or worsen after implant surgery and make you feel drained. Being anxious about device complications or depressed about having an implant may reduce motivation and energy.
Other emotional factors adding to fatigue include:
- Stress from hospitalization and recovery
- Fear about loss of normal function
- Uncertainty about the future
- Frustration with activity limitations
- Appearance concerns like scarring or shape changes
- Financial stress
- Grief over loss of health or function
Seeking counseling, joining support groups, relaxation practices, and antidepressant medicines can help if mental health issues are interfering with your well-being and recovery.
Feeling wiped out and fatigued is not uncommon after getting an implant. The good news is that most implant-related fatigue is temporary and improves within weeks to months as you recover. Give your body ample rest, take care of yourself, communicate with your provider, and report any lingering exhaustion. Adjustments to medications, implant settings, and treatable medical conditions can also minimize fatigue moving forward. While having an implant takes extra energy at first, most people find their stamina returns in time.