When is an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) for the heart used?

A cardiologist will recommend an ICD for patients who have had a prior cardiac event.

The heart is basically a pump made up of muscle tissue that is stimulated by electrical currents, which normally follow a specific circuit within the heart. This normal electrical circuit begins in the sinus or sinoatrial (SA) node, which is a small mass of specialized tissue located in the right atrium (upper chamber) of the heart. The SA node generates an electrical stimulus at 60 to 100 times per minute under normal conditions; this electrical impulse from the SA node starts the heartbeat.

An implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) insertion is the implantation of an electronic device (just below the collarbone) used to help regulate electrical problems with the heart. An ICD may be needed when the electrical stimulation becomes chaotic and randomly starts in the ventricles instead of in the SA node in the right atrium. A variety of common cardiac conditions such as heart attacks and heart failure can lead to this type of electrical malfunction in the heart.

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