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Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator


An implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) is a small device that monitors your heart rate and rhythm. It is commonly placed inside your chest or abdomen. It may be used if you have an arrhythmia. An arrhythmia is an irregular heart rate or a heart rate that is too fast or too slow. Some arrhythmias may cause your heart to suddenly stop beating. An ICD can give a shock to your heart to make it start beating again. It can also make your heart beat faster or slower.


Follow up with your primary healthcare provider or cardiologist as directed:

You will need to follow-up to have your ICD checked and make sure you are not having problems. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.


  • Ask about activity: Ask if you need to avoid moving your shoulder or arm, and for how long. Ask if you should avoid lifting heavy objects. Do not play any contact sports, such as football or wrestling, until your primary healthcare provider (PHP) or cardiologist tells you it is okay. You may only be able to drive for a certain amount of time per day, or during certain hours. Ask when you can return to work.

  • Care for your skin over the ICD: Ask your PHP or cardiologist when it is okay for you to bathe. Do not put any lotion or powder on the incision area. Do not rub or wear tight clothing over the ICD area until your PHP or cardiologist tells you it is okay.

When you get a shock from your ICD:

A shock may feel like someone has hit you, or you may feel a thump in the chest. If someone is touching you when you get a shock, they may feel a tingling feeling. The first time you feel a shock, it may scare you. Sit or lie down and stay calm. Ask someone to stay with you if possible.

Safety instructions when you have an ICD:

  • Carry an ID card for the ICD: This card has important information about your ICD.

  • Stay away from magnets or machines with electric fields: This includes MRI machines. Avoid leaning into a car engine or doing welding. These things can interfere with how your ICD works.

  • Tell airport security you have an ICD: You may need to be searched by hand when you go through a security gate. The security gate or handheld wand could harm your ICD.

  • Keep an ICD diary: Record when you get a shock and what you were doing before you got the shock. Keep track of how you felt before and after the shock, as well as how many shocks you received. Write down the day and time of each shock. Bring the diary with you when you see your PHP or cardiologist.

  • Carry medical alert identification: Wear medical alert jewelry or carry a card that says you have an ICD. Ask your PHP or cardiologist where to get these items.

Contact your primary healthcare provider or cardiologist if:

  • You have a fever.

  • You feel 1 or more shocks from your ICD and feel fine afterwards.

  • Your feet or ankles swell.

  • The area around your ICD is painful or tender after surgery.

  • The skin around your stitches or staples is red, swollen, or draining pus or fluid.

  • You have chills, a cough, and feel weak or achy.

  • You are sad or anxious and find it hard to do your usual activities.

  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Seek care immediately or call 911 if:

  • Your stitches or staples come apart.

  • Blood soaks through your bandage.

  • You feel more than 3 shocks in a row from your ICD.

  • You become weak, dizzy, or faint.

  • You feel your heart skip beats or beat very fast or slow, but you do not feel a shock from your ICD.

  • You have chest pain that does not go away with rest or medicine.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.