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What is an implantable cardioverter defibrillator?

Ketan Desai, DO
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
This is a relatively small device most often placed within the chest under the collar bone. It has wires that attach into the heart. The purpose of this device is to use electrical pulses or shocks to help control life-threatening irregular heartbeats, primarily those that cause sudden cardiac arrest [SCA]. SCA is a condition in which the heart suddenly and unexpectedly stops beating, which usually leads to death. The device is primarily indicated in two types of settings:
1. in patients who are actively having these types of life-threatening heart rhythm irregularities which has been documented while they have been on a heart rhythm monitor,

2. or in patients who have high risk medical conditions (such as a weakened heart muscle), and are expected to have this type of life-threatening abnormal heart rhythm.
An implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) is a device used to monitor heartbeat and heart rhythm. It is placed under the skin and attached to the heart through the veins with small wires. The device emits an electrical pulse if the heart beats with a dangerous rhythm or if the heart stops. The electrical pulse shocks the heart back to a normal rhythm.
Also called an ICD, this device is similar to a pacemaker and monitors a patient’s heart for abnormal rhythms, such as ventricular tachycardia or ventricular fibrillation. If it detects an abnormal rhythm, it delivers an electric pulse to the heart to restore its normal function.
Imran K. Niazi, MD
Clinical Cardiac Electrophysiology

An implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) is a battery-powered device slightly larger than a matchbox that is implanted under the skin just below the collar bone. It is used to correct and regulate heart rhythm, and some types are used to help improve heart function.

An ICD has a computer chip that continuously records your heart rhythm and looks for abnormalities. If the heartbeat slows too much or stops, the defibrillator acts like a pacemaker and speeds up the heartbeat to a normal rhythm. If the heartbeat goes dangerously fast (which can be fatal), the defibrillator corrects the rhythm by giving a series of electrical pulses or by giving an electrical shock to the heart. Some defibrillators (called biventricular ICDs) are very helpful in making the heart chambers work in unison. This can improve heart function considerably.

Surgery for an ICD takes an hour or two, and is usually performed under local anesthesia or in twilight sleep. The patient can go home the same day or perhaps the next day. The surgical risk is low, less than 1 percent. The battery pack lasts five to seven years, after which it is changed in a 30-minute outpatient surgery.

The ICD can be checked through your phone line or the Internet. It does not prevent you from living a full life. It is your reliable friend, silent but available to help in an instant.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.