Patient Guide For Defibrillator

What is an ICD ?

An implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) is a life-saving device that is implanted in a patient. It will automatically detect when the heart's rhythm becomes dangerously fast, and give an electric shock to restore the normal rhythm.

Why did my doctor recommend that I receive an ICD?

Your doctor has recommended that you have an ICD implanted. This is because your doctor believes you are at risk of developing a dangerous heart rhythm (arrhythmia) which can be treated with an ICD. You may have already experienced a cardiac arrest, requiring the help of doctors or emergency medical personnel to give a shock to restore your heart's normal rhythm. If you are implanted with an ICD, that ICD can take the place of those other people, so that if you have another episode of arrhythmia, it will be automatically treated wherever you are.

Are there alternative treatments ?

A number of conditions, such as a previous heart attack, can put people at risk of life-threatening arrhythmias. In some patients, these conditions can be completely cured. In others, the risk of arrhythmias is significantly reduced when the cause is treated, for example, by surgery or medication. However, for many patients the risk remains unacceptably high despite these treatments, and an ICD is the best "insurance policy" against the risk of a cardiac arrest.

Who should not receive an ICD ?

Some patients should not be treated with an ICD. This may be because their arrhythmia is only temporary or because an ICD cannot treat their problem. These include:

  • Patients whose tachyarrhythmias are due to a reversible cause, such as drug treatment, electrolyte imbalance, etc.
  • Patients with tachyarrhythmias due to a recent heart attack or unstable ischemic episodes.
  • Patients with incessant ventricular tachyarrhythmias.
  • Patients whose tachyarrhythmia was due to electrocution.