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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.


You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment.


You may bleed more than usual or get a blood clot during surgery. This could become life-threatening. You may get an infection after surgery. The leads could poke a hole in your heart, lung, or vein. The leads may also cause arrhythmias when they are placed. Blood may collect in the pocket where the generator is placed and cause pain or an infection. The leads may disconnect or break and you may need another surgery. If you do not get an ICD, your heart problems could get worse and become life-threatening.


Before your surgery:

  • Informed consent is a legal document that explains the tests, treatments, or procedures that you may need. Informed consent means you understand what will be done and can make decisions about what you want. You give your permission when you sign the consent form. You can have someone sign this form for you if you are not able to sign it. You have the right to understand your medical care in words you know. Before you sign the consent form, understand the risks and benefits of what will be done. Make sure all your questions are answered.
  • Local or monitored anesthesia: Anesthesia is medicine that keeps you from feeling pain during surgery or a procedure. Local anesthesia is a shot of numbing medicine put into the skin where you will have surgery. You will be fully awake during the surgery or procedure. You may feel pressure or pushing, but you will not feel pain. Monitored anesthesia means you will also be given medicine through an IV. This medicine keeps you comfortable, relaxed, and drowsy during the surgery or procedure.
  • Monitoring:
    • Heart monitor: This is also called an ECG or EKG. Sticky pads placed on your skin record your heart's electrical activity.
    • You may need extra oxygen if your blood oxygen level is lower than it should be. You may get oxygen through a mask placed over your nose and mouth or through small tubes placed in your nostrils. Ask your healthcare provider before you take off the mask or oxygen tubing.
    • Pulse oximeter: A pulse oximeter is a device that measures the amount of oxygen in your blood. A cord with a clip or sticky strip is placed on your finger, ear, or toe. The other end of the cord is hooked to a machine. Never turn the pulse oximeter or alarm off. An alarm will sound if your oxygen level is low or cannot be read.

During your surgery:

  • Your caregiver will make an incision on your chest. A lead will be put into a vein near your collarbone or neck. With the help of an x-ray machine, the lead will be placed or guided into your heart.
  • The other end of the lead will be connected to the generator. The generator will be placed in a pocket under your skin. This pocket is usually in the shoulder area, but may also be in the abdominal area. The ICD is programmed so that it will monitor your heart all the time. The incision will be closed with stitches or staples.

After your surgery:

You will be taken to a recovery room where you rest until you are awake. Caregivers will check on you often. A bandage will cover your stitches or staples to keep it clean and prevent infection. You may be able to leave when you are awake and your pain is controlled. Or, you may go to a hospital room and spend the night.

  • Medicines:
    • Heart medicine: This is given to strengthen or regulate your heartbeat.
    • Pain medicine: You may be given a prescription medicine to decrease pain. Do not wait until the pain is severe before you ask for more medicine.
    • Antinausea medicine: This medicine may be given to calm your stomach and to help prevent vomiting.
    • Antibiotics: This medicine is given to help treat or prevent an infection caused by bacteria.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

Learn more about Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (Inpatient Care)

Micromedex® Care Notes