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Heart Disease Health Center

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Abnormal Heart Rhythms and Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillators (ICD)

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How Should I Care for the Wound?

Keep the wound clean and dry. Look at your wound every day to make sure it is healing. It will take a few weeks to heal completely.

Call your doctor if you notice:

  • Unusual redness
  • Swelling
  • Drainage from the wound
  • Fever
  • Chills

You will have a slight bulge under the skin where the generator is located. It will not be noticeable under clothes. Avoid wearing tight fitting clothing so your incision will not be irritated.

Should I Avoid Certain Electrical Devices?

Most electrical devices, such as microwave ovens, do not interfere with ICD function. You need to avoid strong electric or magnetic fields, such as some industrial equipment, MRI machines, high-output ham radios, high-intensity radio waves (found near large electrical generators, power plants, or radio frequency transmission towers), and arc or resistance welders.

Stay at arm's length from less powerful electric or magnetic fields, such as large magnets, stereo speakers, airport security wands, and antennas used in ham or CB radios.

If you are in stronger electrical or magnetic fields, the ICD may stop monitoring your heart rhythm. Once you are out of these fields, normal ICD function should resume. No permanent damage should be done to the ICD.

Cellular phones should be kept at least 6 inches from your ICD. Do not store cell phones in a pocket over the device.

If you must pass through entrances where theft devices are being used, walk quickly through them.

Do not undergo any tests that require magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). You may have CT scans done if necessary.

If you have concerns about your job or activities, ask your doctor.

Will I Know When the ICD Is Working?

You may or may not be aware of when your ICD detects and corrects your heart rhythm. Often it depends on the type of therapy you receive.

  • Pacing. You may or may not feel the impulses -- usually they are not detectable.
  • Defibrillation. The shock feels like a kick in the chest but only lasts for a moment. Some patients describe the sensation as feeling like a shock from an electrical outlet. Most times, you will be awake when the shock is delivered, but on occasion, you may lose consciousness before the therapy is delivered.

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