Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator

The implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) is a small device placed in your chest or abdomen that can protect you against dangerous abnormal heart rhythms by constantly monitoring your heart rhythm. The ICD is able to detect ventricular tachycardia (VT) or ventricular fibrillation (VF). These two heart rhythms can be life-threatening if they are not treated. The ICD treats these rhythms by pacing, or shocking, the heart rhythm back to a normal rhythm. Your physician will program your ICD to best fit your specific needs.

The ICD placement is done in the Electrophysiology (EP) Lab. The ICD is surgically placed just under the skin in the chest area. You will be given sedation to help you relax during the procedure. The procedure lasts several hours. 

Life with your pacemaker

It is important to notify all of your physicians that you have a pacemaker. We can provide further information if there are any questions regarding whether or not you can undergo specific tests due to your pacemaker

Activity guidelines

  • Driving is allowed after one to six weeks. You will be given instructions about driving at your one-week follow-up appointment.
  • Exercise is encouraged. It is important to start slowly and progress gradually. You can check your heart rate by taking your pulse before and after exercise. Be sure to rest when you are tired. Talk with your physician to see what options are best for you.
  • Avoid exercise or activity that may result in blunt blows to the pacemaker site, such as contact sports.
  • Avoid lifting objects over 10 pounds (groceries, laundry, children, etc.) until six weeks after surgery.
  • Avoid activity involving stretching and/or reaching movements for six weeks (such as golf or tennis).
  • Avoid swimming for six weeks until the incision is completely healed, to decrease the risk of infections.
  • Avoid dental work for three months.

Magnets and electrical devices

Normal use of properly operating household appliances will not damage your pacemaker. Using electric arc welders or working on automobile ignition systems will also not damage your pacemaker but they can interfere with the pacemaker function. If you are using electrical equipment or working around running motors and you become lightheaded or feel palpitations, turn the equipment off or walk away from it. Normal pacemaker function should resume.

Follow-up care

After your pacemaker is implanted, you will be followed closely by your physician to ensure that it is working properly. The pacemaker may be re-programmed to fit your changing healthcare needs. Rest assured that examining and adjusting the pacemaker is quick and painless. Your pacemaker will last up to 10 years, depending on how often it is used and how it is programmed. Part of your follow-up care involves checking the battery life of your pacemaker. Your follow-up care will be managed through the pacemaker clinic.