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Removal of Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Oct 3, 2022.

What do I need to know about removal of an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD)?

An ICD may be removed due to an infection around the device or in the heart tissue.

How do I prepare for ICD removal?

  • Your surgeon will tell you how to prepare for surgery. He or she may tell you not to eat or drink anything after midnight on the day of your surgery. Arrange for someone to drive you home and stay with you after surgery.
  • Tell your surgeon about all your current medicines. He or she will tell you if you need to stop any medicine for surgery, and when to stop. He or she will tell you which medicines to take or not take on the day of surgery.
  • Make arrangements at home and work, if needed. You will not be able to lift anything heavy for several days after surgery. Someone may need to help you around the house during this time. Ask your provider when you can return to work after surgery. You may need to arrange for time off.

What will happen during ICD removal?

  • You may be given general anesthesia to keep you asleep and free from pain during surgery. You may instead be given IV sedation and local anesthesia to numb the surgery area. With local anesthesia, you may still feel pressure or pushing, but you should not feel pain.
  • Your surgeon will make an incision in your chest. He or she will remove all parts of the ICD. He or she may remove infected tissue or take a sample to test for the type of germ causing infection.
  • Your surgeon may also place a drain to allow the infection to heal. The incision may be closed with stitches or staples. A bandage will be placed over the area to prevent an infection.

What will happen after ICD removal?

  • You will be taken to a recovery room where you will rest until you are awake. You may be able to leave when you are awake and your pain is controlled. You may instead be taken to a hospital room.
  • You will be on a heart monitor. A heart monitor is an EKG that stays on continuously to record your heart's electrical activity. You may need to stay on a heart monitor in the hospital until your infection is gone and you can have another ICD placed.
  • You may need wound care to help your infection heal. You may also need several weeks of IV antibiotic therapy.

What are the risks of ICD removal?

You may bleed more than usual or get a blood clot after surgery. Your heart or blood vessels may be damaged and you may need more surgery. You may also need a wearable cardioverter defibrillator (WCD), or temporary transcutaneous pacing, to prevent a cardiac arrest. A cardiac arrest is when your heart stops beating. You may need to have another ICD placed after your infection is gone.

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 healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. 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.

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