An implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) is a small battery-operated device that monitors the heart’s rhythm and provides appropriate treatment. Most ICDs have both pacemaker and defibrillator functions. If the heart beats too slowly, the ICD can help the heart beat at a normal pace. If the heart begins to beat in a disorganized way, the device provides a shock to restore a normal rhythm. ICD implantation is the surgical insertion of an ICD.
Implanted Cardioverter Defibrillator
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Certain heart rhythms are extremely dangerous and can lead to sudden cardiac death or cardiac arrest . Some irregular rhythms that may require an ICD implant include:
ICDs are implanted in patients who:
If you are planning to have a defibrillator implanted, your doctor will review a list of possible complications, which may include:
Some factors that may increase the risk of complications include:
The following test may be conducted prior to your procedure:
Leading up to your procedure:
For the implantation of the ICD, light sedation and a local anesthesia will usually be used.
Once the ICD is in place, it will need to be tested. General anesthesia will be used for this step.
A sedative will be given by IV to help you relax. The area where the ICD is to be implanted will be washed with antiseptic. Local anesthesia will be injected to numb the area. A small incision will be made below the collarbone on the left or right side.
A wire, called a lead, will be threaded through a vein in the upper chest to the heart. An x-ray monitor will be used to watch the lead move through the vein to the heart. The signals between the heart and the ICD will be carried on this lead.
The doctor will then create a pocket under the skin at the incision site. The ICD will be implanted into the pocket.
When the ICD is in place, the sedation will be increased. The ICD will be tested to make sure that it shocks the heart appropriately. Every precaution will be taken to ensure that this is a safe process. Once it is determined the ICD is working properly and in the right place, the incision will be closed with stitches.
You will be taken to a recovery room after the procedure. Your pulse, blood pressure, and incision site will be checked regularly. Chest x-rays will ensure the ICD and leads are in the proper place.
About 1-3 hours
You may feel some pushing and tugging on the skin during the procedure. The anesthesia should minimize any pain. After the procedure, you may experience some pain or stiffness at the incision site. Your doctor can prescribe pain medicine for this.
The day after your implant, you will have an ECG and blood tests. The ICD function may be checked again. This will require sedation.
After this procedure, you will gradually be able to return to normal life, with a few exceptions. Do the following to help ensure a smooth recovery:
You will get an ID card that contains important information about your ICD. It is important that you show this card to any doctor, nurse, dentist, or other healthcare professional at the beginning of an office visit or hospital admission.
If your heart requires a shock from your ICD, you may be able to feel it. You may feel dizzy or lightheaded before the shock. This is from the heart rhythm. The shock administered by the ICD may feel like a light thump or a strong kick in the chest. If you feel a shock, try to stay calm and sit or lie down. If someone is with you, ask them to stay. If you feel okay after the shock, contact your doctor’s office to let them know. This is not an emergency. Your doctor may want you to come in for a check-up, particularly if this is the first shock you have received. If you receive multiple shocks in a row or multiple shocks in a day, you should go to the emergency room.
After you leave the hospital, contact your doctor if any of the following occurs:
These symptoms are medical emergencies. Call for medical help right away if:
In case of an emergency, call for medical help right away.
American Heart Association
Heart Rhythm Society
Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada
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Last reviewed November 2012 by Michael J. Fucci, DO
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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