What is an ICD?
ICD stands for implantable cardioverter defibrillator. It is a device that is inserted under a patient’s skin, usually near the left shoulder. An ICD has two components: a generator and leads. The leads are placed into a patient's heart by entering through a vein near the shoulder. The leads are connected to a generator which is similar to a small computer.
Who should receive an ICD?
ICDs are recommended for patients who have experienced a life threatening arrhythmia (abnormal heart rhythm) and survived or are likely to experience a life threatening arrhythmia. Often, patients with cardiomyopathy or CHF are considered likely enough to have a life threatening abnormal heart rhythm that an ICD is recommended to them.
How does an ICD work?
An ICD monitors a patient's heart for very fast, abnormal heart rhythms. If the device detects a life threatening abnormal heart rhythm, it will deliver therapy, frequently a shock, to get a person out of that rhythm. The shock is intended to save the person's life.
What can I expect at the time of ICD implantation?
An ICD is implanted by making a small incision usually near the left shoulder. A needle is inserted into a vein, wires are placed through the needles, and leads are placed through that entry down to the heart. The generator is attached to the leads and placed in a small “pocket” under the skin. The procedure takes 1-2 hours. Patients usually remain overnight in the hospital for observation and go home the next morning. The main risk of the procedure is bleeding or infection which can occur about 1% of the time. Other complications which may be more serious are rare.
After implantation, we recommend that patients keep the dressing on for 5 days. Patients should avoid taking a shower for 3 days. After 3 days, the dressing may get wet. Patients are also instructed to avoid lifting their arm over their shoulder for 6 weeks to avoid dislodging the lead.