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Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator

What you should know

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.

Care Agreement

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.

Getting Ready

The week before your surgery:

  • Bring your medicine bottles or a list of your medicines when you see your caregiver. Tell your caregiver if you are allergic to any medicine. Tell your caregiver if you use any herbs, food supplements, or over-the-counter medicine.
  • Tell your caregiver if you have bleeding problems. If you take blood thinners, ask if you need to stop taking them before your surgery.
  • Tell your caregiver if you have diabetes or other blood sugar problems. Your caregiver may want to change your diet and medicine before and after your ICD surgery.
  • Your caregiver may want you to take antibiotics to prevent infection during or after ICD surgery.
  • Arrange a ride home. Ask a family member or friend to drive you home after your surgery or procedure. Do not drive yourself home.
  • You may need blood tests before your procedure. Talk to your caregiver about these or other tests you may need. Write down the date, time, and location of each test.
  • Write down the correct date, time, and location of your surgery.

The night before your surgery:

Ask caregivers about directions for eating and drinking.

The day of your surgery:

  • Ask your caregiver before taking any medicine on the day of your procedure. These medicines include insulin, diabetic pills, high blood pressure pills, or heart pills. Bring a list of all the medicines you take, or your pill bottles, with you to the hospital.
  • If you wear contact lenses, do not wear them on the day of your procedure or surgery. Glasses may be worn.
  • You or a close family member will be asked to sign a legal document called a consent form. It gives caregivers permission to do the procedure or surgery. It also explains the problems that may happen, and your choices. Make sure all your questions are answered before you sign this form.


What will happen:

  • You may be given medicine in your IV to help you relax or make you sleepy. Depending on what you and your caregiver agree on, you may be put to sleep or remain awake but drowsy.
  • Your caregiver will make an incision in your chest or abdomen. A lead will be placed into a vein near your collarbone or neck and guided into your heart. The leads to the generator will then be connected to your heart. The other end of the lead is attached to the generator and placed in a pocket under your skin. This pocket is usually in the shoulder area, but may also be in the abdominal area. The incision will be closed with stitches or staples.

After 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.

Contact a caregiver if

  • You cannot make it to your surgery on time.
  • You have a fever.
  • The problems for which you are getting the ICD become worse.
  • You have questions or concerns about your surgery or the ICD.

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 (Precare)

Micromedex® Care Notes