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Implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD)

Implantable cardioverter defibrillator

How your heart works

Your heart beats (pumps blood) because special cells in your heart (the sinus node, your heart's natural pacemaker) produce electrical impulses.

The impulses cause your heart to contract and pump blood.

Your sinus node causes those impulses to travel down to the muscle walls of your heart, causing your heart to contract.

Why your doctor wants you to have an ICD

Sometimes, things can go wrong with your heart's electrical impulses, causing a lifethreatening, rapid, irregular heartbeat.

This irregular heartbeat is known as ventricular tachycardia or ventricular fibrillation.

To treat either of these, an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) may be needed. An ICD delivers an electrical shock that converts the irregular rhythm into a normal rhythm.

Before the procedure

  • Do not eat or drink 6 hours before the procedure.
  • You may take some of your regular medicines with small sips of water. If you have diabetes, remind your doctor of your diet, medicine or insulin needs.
  • The area below your collarbone will be shaved, if needed.
  • A nurse will start an intravenous (IV) line in your arm.
  • You will be asked to sign a consent form.

During the procedure

  • You will receive an antibiotic (medicine) through your IV.
  • The doctor will numb the site with medicine.
  • The doctor will make an incision just below your collarbone for the ICD. The ICD and leads are attached. The leads are then positioned inside your heart.
  • The doctor will test the ICD to see if it is working properly.
  • The doctor will close the incision and put a dressing over it.
heart cross section

After the procedure

  • You will have your blood pressure, pulse and heart rhythm checked often.
  • A shoulder immobilizer may be placed on your procedure arm for 24 hours.
  • You will be on bedrest, for a short time, as ordered by your doctor.
  • You may eat after the procedure.
  • You will be given an informational booklet and an identification card before you leave the hospital.

Day after the procedure

  • You will have a chest X-ray and EKG (electrocardiogram).
  • You will have a pacemaker/ICD check.

 

 

Source: Allina Health's Patient Education Department, Helping Your Heart, fourth edition, cvs-ahc-90648: Allina Patient Education, Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (ICD), cvs-ahc-13919

First published: 10/04/2002
Last updated: 09/21/2011

Reviewed by: Allina Health's Patient Education Department experts