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If you have an irregular heart rhythm, an ICD could save your life

A doctor listens to a man's heart using a stethoscope.
Blog Health Information

/ by UK HealthCare

If you have an irregular heart rhythm, your doctor might recommend putting an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) inside your chest.

An ICD constantly monitors your heart rate and rhythm and can potentially save your life if your heart rate quickens to a dangerous rate.

Here’s how an ICD works and how it’s implanted:

What is an ICD?

An ICD is a device that is placed under the skin of your chest. Wires, called leads, connect the ICD to the heart. An ICD is always “on” – checking your heart rate and rhythm. It is made to fix dangerous heart rhythms that could cause sudden death.

Here’s how it works:

  • If it senses a dangerous fast heart rhythm, it will try to slow the rhythm back to normal.
  • If the dangerous rhythm does not stop, the ICD will give your heart a shock to try to get the heart to beat normally again.

Why does my doctor think I need an ICD?

Your doctor may advise you to get an ICD if:

  • You have had a dangerous heart rhythm in the past.
  • Or you are at risk for having one because of other health problems, including if you have had a heart attack or have a congenital heart disease.

Even with an ICD, you may still need to take medicine to help prevent a dangerous heart rhythm.

How is an ICD implanted?

Your doctor will put the ICD in your chest during minor surgery. This is not open-chest or open heart surgery. You will have medicine to make you feel sleepy and not feel pain.

During surgery, your doctor will:

  • Make a small cut in your upper chest.
  • Put one or two leads into a vein and thread them to your heart.
  • Connect the leads to the ICD.
  • Put the ICD in your chest and program it.
  • Close the incision.

Most people spend the night in the hospital. This helps the doctors make sure that the device is working and that there are no problems from the surgery.

Will an ICD make me feel better?

ICDs by themselves do not make you feel better. Some patients with certain medical problems may get ICDs with features that can help them feel better. Talk with your doctor about which device is best for your medical problem.

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