What is icd?

Jump To

Implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD)

An implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) is a small device that uses electrical pulses or shocks to help control abnormal heart rhythms, especially ones that can be life-threatening. An ICD is also known as an automatic implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (AICD).

An ICD is implanted under the skin in the chest. It's attached to one or two wires (called leads). With some ICDs, these leads go into the heart through a vein. Other ICDs have a lead that is placed under the skin so that it lies near your heart.

An ICD is always checking your heart for a life-threatening rapid heart rhythm. The ICD may try to slow the rhythm back to normal using electrical pulses. If the dangerous rhythm does not stop, the ICD sends an electric shock to the heart to restore a normal rhythm. The device then goes back to its watchful mode. If your heart is beating too slowly, some ICDs can act as a pacemaker and send mild electrical pulses to bring your heart rate back up to normal.

Is it okay to drive if you have an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD)?

If you get an ICD, you will not drive for a short time after you get the device implanted. Depending on the reason you got the ICD, you may not be able to drive for one week to a few months. If you get a shock from the ICD, your doctor may ask that you don't drive for a short time. Your doctor will let you know when you can drive again. Your doctor might follow these guidelines:

  • If you get an ICD because you are at risk for a life-threatening arrhythmia (but have never had one), you will likely wait a few days after the implant procedure before driving again. This allows you time to heal. After you heal, you can drive again as long as your ICD has never given you a shock and you have no symptoms of an arrhythmia. But keep in mind that an arrhythmia could cause you to pass out (lose consciousness).
  • If you get an ICD because you have already had a life-threatening arrhythmia, you might have to wait at least 6 months before you drive again.
  • If you have an ICD that has given you a shock for an arrhythmia, you might have to wait at least 6 months before you drive again.

How does an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) work?

An ICD is always checking your heart for a life-threatening, rapid heart rhythm. The ICD may try to slow the rhythm back to normal using electrical pulses. If the dangerous rhythm does not stop, the ICD sends an electric shock to the heart to restore a normal rhythm.

How can you prepare for an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) and ICD shocks?

Know your ICD treatment

  • Learn how the ICD works, what it does, and how it keeps you safe. This can help reduce any anxiety you may feel.
  • Keep your regular doctor appointments. Your doctor:
    • Sets both the rate at which a shock will occur and the level of shock needed to restore your heart to a normal rate.
    • Checks to see whether the ICD has given you any shocks since your last visit. This helps your doctor know if your medicines need to be adjusted.
    • Checks the ICD battery.
  • Talk with others who have an ICD. Ask them if they have been shocked and what it was like. Ask them how they cope with it. Talking with others can help you feel better.
  • Always carry your ICD identity card, a list of all the medicines you are taking, and your doctor's name and phone number. This will help you get the best possible treatment if you get a shock and need help.

Make an action plan

Talk to your doctor about making an action plan for what to do if you get shocked. Here is an example:

  • After one shock:
    • Call 911 or other emergency services right away if you feel bad or have symptoms like chest pain.
    • Call your doctor soon if you feel fine right away after the shock. Your doctor may want to talk about the shock and schedule a follow-up visit.
  • If you get a second shock in a 24-hour period, call your doctor right away. Call even if you feel fine right away.

Stay calm after a shock

  • Follow the action plan you made with your doctor.
  • Do some breathing exercises. They may help you relax.
    • Sit or lie in a comfortable position. Put one hand on your belly just below your ribs and the other hand on your chest.
    • Take a deep breath in through your nose, and let your belly push your hand out. Your chest should not move.
    • Breathe out through pursed lips as if you were whistling. Feel the hand on your belly go in, and use it to push all the air out.
    • Breathe in and out like this until you feel more relaxed.
  • Don't make changes in what you do. You may want to avoid an action because you think it caused the shock. But a shock can occur at any time, and you can't prevent shocks by your actions alone. Don't stop doing things you enjoy to try to avoid a shock.

How does it feel to get a shock from an ICD?

The shock from an ICD hurts briefly. People feel it in different ways. It's been described as feeling like a punch in the chest. But the shock is a sign that the ICD is doing its job. It's there to save your life. You won't feel any pain if the ICD uses electrical pulses to fix a heart rate that is too fast or too slow.

There's no way to know how often a shock might occur. It might never happen.

Not knowing when or if a shock might happen may make you nervous. Knowing what to do if you get shocked can help. Ask your doctor for an action plan. This plan will guide you step-by-step if a shock happens.

What devices could affect your ICD?

Some electric devices have a strong electromagnetic field. This field can keep your ICD from working right for a short time. These include things in your home, garage, or workplace. Your doctor or ICD manufacturer can give you a list of things you need to be careful about.

What is an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD)?

An ICD (implantable cardioverter-defibrillator) is a small, battery-powered device. It fixes serious changes in your heartbeat. ICDs are used in people who've had a life-threatening heart rhythm or are at high risk of having one.

The ICD is placed under the skin of the chest. It's attached to one or two wires (called leads). These leads go into the heart through a vein (transvenous).

Why is an ICD used?

ICDs are used in people who have had a life-threatening, fast heart rhythm or are at high risk of having one. Heart problems that can make a fast heart rhythm more likely include coronary artery disease, heart failure, and a structural or electrical problem of the heart.

Why turn off your ICD?

You may want to consider turning off your ICD if your health goal changes from living longer to getting the most comfort possible at the end of life.

Even though an ICD can help fix heart rate or rhythm problems, you may not want this at the end of life. The shocks the ICD delivers are painful. Not being shocked may make you more comfortable.

As you plan for your future and your end of life, include plans for your ICD. Your decision about your ICD can be included in your treatment plan. And you can put this information in your advance directive.

Turning off your ICD is legal. It isn't considered suicide. The decision to leave on or turn off your ICD is a medical decision you make based on your values.

How do you turn off an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD)?

Your ICD can be turned off by your doctor. They will use a computer to reprogram it so that it doesn't give you shocks.

This procedure isn't hard or painful. The ICD isn't taken out of your chest, and you don't need surgery. Turning off the ICD won't cause death, and it won't make you feel worse. But because the ICD won't give you a shock if you have a life-threatening heart rhythm, this type of heart rhythm could lead to death.

If you change your mind, the ICD can be turned back on.

Some ICDs are combined with a pacemaker. You can turn off the ICD without turning off the pacemaker. Your doctor can explain how your pacemaker might affect you at the end of your life.

How do you decide to turn off your ICD?

Many things can help you decide to leave on or turn off your ICD. It can be a tough decision. But it is yours to make. You don't have to do it alone. Look to your family, your doctor, your spiritual advisor, and your friends for help and support.

Things to think about:

  • Your future and quality of life. What can you expect as your health problems get worse? What type of health care do you want at the end of life? Do you want to be shocked by your ICD if it may not help you live much longer?
  • Your health. Is a heart problem your only health problem?
  • Timing. When do you want to turn off the ICD? Some people wait until the end of life is close. Others want it turned off well before this.
  • Personal issues. Do you have any personal goals you would like to meet? Do you need to say any final goodbyes? You may want to keep your ICD on until you can achieve them.
  • Your care and comfort. If you turn off your ICD, you will still receive your usual care. You'll still be treated for other health problems and have doctor visits as necessary. If it is toward the end of life, you can still get care, called hospice care, that focuses on pain relief, comfort, and the quality of your life.
  • An advance directive. Do you want to put your instructions in an advance directive? Do you want this decision to be made earlier or later? Do you want to be sure your wishes are followed?
  • It's your decision. You can change your mind at any time.

©2011-2024 Healthwise, Incorporated

The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.