implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) is a
battery-powered device that can fix an abnormal heart rate or rhythm and prevent sudden
death. The ICD is placed inside the chest. It's attached to one or two wires
(called leads) that go into the heart through a vein.
An ICD is also known as an
automatic implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (AICD).
Who needs an ICD?
You might need an ICD if you have had a serious episode of an abnormally
fast heart rhythm or are at high risk for having one. If
you have coronary artery disease, heart failure, or a problem with the
structure or electrical system of the heart, you may be at risk for an abnormal
An example of
a life-threatening heart rhythm is ventricular tachycardia.
- Heart Failure: Should I Get an Implantable Cardioverter-Defibrillator (ICD)?
- Heart Problems: Should I Get an Implantable Cardioverter-Defibrillator (ICD)?
How does an ICD work?
An ICD is always checking your heart rate and rhythm. If the ICD detects a life-threatening rapid heart rhythm, it tries to slow the rhythm to get it back to normal. 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.
An ICD also can fix a heart rate that is too fast or too
slow. It does so without using a shock. It can send out electrical pulses to speed up a
heart rate that is too slow. Or it can slow down a fast heart rate by matching
the pace and bringing the heart rate back to normal.
Whether you get pulses or a shock depends on the type of
problem that you have and how the doctor programs the ICD for you.
How is an ICD placed?
Your doctor will put the ICD
in your chest during minor surgery. You will not have open-chest surgery. You
probably will have
local anesthesia. This means that you will be awake
but feel no pain. You also will likely have medicine to make you feel relaxed
Your doctor makes a small cut (incision) in your upper
chest. He or she puts one or two leads (wires) in a vein and threads them to
the heart. Then your doctor connects the leads to the ICD. Your doctor programs
the ICD and then puts it in your chest and closes the incision.
some cases, the doctor may be able to put the ICD in another place in the chest
so that you don't have a scar on your upper chest. This would allow you to wear
clothing with a lower neckline and still keep the scar covered.
Most people spend the night in the hospital, just to make sure that the
device is working and that there are no problems from the surgery.
You may be able to see a little bump under the skin where the ICD is