Implantable Defibrillators (ICD’s)

An implantable cardioverter-defibrillator, or ICD, is a small electronic device that is implanted (inserted) into your body. It is designed to treat life-threatening rapid heart rhythms.

The ICD monitors you heart rhythm at all times. If it senses a dangerously fast heart rhythm, the ICD delivers electrical impulses and/or shocks to restore a normal heart rhythm.

Your doctor may recommend an ICD if you have had cardiac arrest or if you have a heart condition that could cause cardiac arrest. Keep in mind that an ICD cannot prevent your heart from beating too fast. It is not a cure for your heart rhythm problem. But it can save your life by quickly bringing a dangerously fast heart rhythm under control. Having an ICD may give you more freedom to do the activities you enjoy.

Implanting Your ICD

The ICD is put into your body during a procedure called implantation. Generally, implanting an ICD is a minor surgical procedure that requires only local anesthesia. It is usually done in an eletrophysiology (EP) lab or and operating room.

Most often, an ICD is implanted in the upper chest, usually near the left shoulder. In some cases, it may be implanted under the skin in the abdomen. A local anesthetic is injected to numb the area where the ICD will be inserted. An incision is made below the collarbone and a ‘pocket’ is created under the skin, where the pulse generator is placed.

Leads are inserted through the chest incision and into a vein. With the help of an x-ray camera, the lead is passed through the vein and positioned in the heart. After the leads are in place, they are tested to make sure they sense the heart signals correctly. Each of the leads is then connected to the pulse generator. The incision is closed and covered with a sterile dressing.

You are given medication to help you relax and make you drowsy. You may be awake, or you may sleep through part of all of the procedure. The procedure usually takes 1-2 hours.