implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD)
battery-powered device that can fix an abnormal heart rate or rhythm and prevent
death. The ICD is placed under the skin of the chest. It's attached to one or
(called leads). Most of the time, these leads go into the heart through a vein.
An ICD is also known as an
automatic implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (AICD).
Who needs an ICD?
You might need an ICD if you have had a serious episode
of an abnormally
fast heart rhythm or are at high risk for having one. If
you have coronary artery disease, heart failure, or a problem with the
structure or electrical system of the heart, you may be at risk for an abnormal
An ICD is always checking
your heart rate and rhythm. If the ICD detects a life-threatening rapid heart rhythm,
it tries to slow the rhythm back to normal using electrical pulses. If the dangerous
rhythm does not stop, the ICD sends an electric shock to the heart to restore a normal
rhythm. The device then goes back to its watchful mode.
Some ICDs also can
fix a heart rate that is too
slow. The ICD does so without using a shock. It can send out electrical pulses to
speed up a
heart rate that is too slow.
Whether you get pulses or a shock depends on the
problem that you have and how the doctor programs the ICD for you.
How is an ICD placed?
Your doctor will put the ICD
in your chest during minor surgery. You will not have open-chest surgery. You
probably will have
local anesthesia. This means that you will be
but feel no pain. You also will likely have medicine to make you feel relaxed
Your doctor makes a small cut (incision) in your upper
chest. Most of the time, he or she puts one or two leads (wires) in a vein and
threads them to
the heart. Sometimes, the leads are placed under the skin of your chest. Then
your doctor connects the leads to the ICD. Your doctor puts the ICD under the skin
of your chest and closes the incision. Your doctor also programs the ICD.
some cases, the doctor may be able to put the ICD in another place in the chest
so that you don't have a scar on your upper chest. This would allow you to wear
clothing with a lower neckline and still keep the scar covered.
spend the night in the hospital, just to make sure that the
device is working and that there are no problems from the surgery.
be able to see a little bump under the skin where the ICD is
How does it feel to get a shock from
shock from an ICD hurts briefly. It's been described as feeling like a punch in
the chest. But the shock is a sign that the ICD is doing its job to keep your
heart beating. You won't feel any pain if the ICD uses electrical pulses to fix
a heart rate that is too fast or too slow.
There's no way to know
how often a shock might occur. It might never happen.
that the ICD could shock your heart when it shouldn't. You also might be afraid
or worried about when the ICD might shock
you again. But you can take simple steps to feel better about having an ICD.
These include having your ICD checked regularly by your doctor and making an action
plan for what to do if you get shocked.
How do I
live a normal, healthy life with an ICD?
You can live a normal, healthy life
with your ICD. A few tips for living well with your ICD include:
strong magnetic and electrical fields.
These can keep your device from working right. Most office
equipment and home appliances are safe to use. Learn which things you should
use with caution and which you should stay away from.
Know what to do
when you get a shock from your ICD.
Be sure that
any doctor, dentist, or other health professional you see knows that you have
Always carry a card in your wallet that tells
what kind of device you have. Wear medical alert jewelry that says you have an
Have your ICD checked regularly to
make sure it's working right.
It's common to be anxious that the ICD might
shock you. But you can take steps to think positively and worry less about living
with an ICD.
Talk with your doctor about the possibility of turning off
the ICD at the end of life. Many people
consider turning off the ICD when their health goals change from living longer to
getting the most
comfort possible at the end of life. Turning off your ICD is legal. It isn't considered
decision to leave on or turn off your ICD is a medical decision that you make based
on your values. You can put your wishes in an advance directive.
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ByHealthwise Staff Primary
Medical ReviewerRakesh K. Pai, MD, FACC - Cardiology,
Electrophysiology Martin J. Gabica, MD - Family
Medicine E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine Elizabeth T. Russo, MD - Internal Medicine Adam
Husney, MD - Family Medicine Specialist Medical
ReviewerJohn M. Miller, MD, FACC - Cardiology, Electrophysiology
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