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Automatic Cardioverter Defibrillator Implantation
What is it? Overview Usage Side Effects and Warnings

What is Automatic Cardioverter Defibrillator Implantation?

An implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) is a small battery-operated device that monitors the heart’s rhythm and provides appropriate treatment. Most ICDs have both pacemaker and defibrillator functions. If the heart beats too slowly, the ICD can help the heart beat at a normal pace. If the heart begins to beat in a disorganized way, the device provides a shock to restore a normal rhythm. ICD implantation is the surgical insertion of an ICD.

Implanted Cardioverter Defibrillator
Implanted Cardioverter Defibrillator
© 2009 Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Certain heart rhythms are extremely dangerous and can lead to sudden cardiac death or cardiac arrest . Some irregular rhythms that may require an ICD implant include:

  • Bradycardia —heart beating too slowly
  • Ventricular tachycardia —heart beating too rapidly
  • Ventricular fibrillation —heart muscle not pumping, but just quivering

ICDs are implanted in patients who:

  • Have had one or more episodes of serious arrhythmias (irregular heart rhythms)
  • Have had a heart attack and at high risk for arrhythmias
  • Have a high risk of dangerous arrhythmias
  • Have a weakened heart muscle (high risk for dangerous arrhythmias)
  • Have a high likelihood of developing an arrhythmia
  • Have the condition known as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (an enlarged heart muscle that...

Possible Complications

If you are planning to have a defibrillator implanted, your doctor will review a list of possible complications, which may include:

  • Damage to the heart or lungs
  • Damage to blood vessels
  • Infection
  • Bleeding
  • Bruising
  • Inappropriate shocks or device malfunction

Some factors that may increase the risk of complications include:

  • Obesity
  • History of smoking
  • History of excess alcohol consumption
  • Bleeding or blood-clotting problems
  • Use of some medicines

Call Your Doctor

After you leave the hospital, contact your doctor if any of the following occurs:

  • You feel a shock
  • Signs of infection, including fever and chills
  • Redness, swelling, increasing pain, excessive bleeding, or discharge from the incision site ...