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Implantable Cardiac Defibrillator

An ICD is a device that is placed permanently inside your body. An ICD monitors your heart rhythm (the speed and pattern of your heartbeat). If this rhythm becomes too fast or too slow, the ICD sends out electrical signals that help bring the rhythm back to normal. The ICD is put inside your body during a minor surgical procedure called implantation. In most cases, implantation takes 1 to 3 hours.

X-ray showing an implanted ICD.

How the ICD Is Put into the Body

The ICD is usually implanted on the left side of your chest. Implantation does not require open heart surgery (your chest will not be opened). During implantation:

  • An incision is made in the skin below the collarbone. This creates a “pocket” to hold the ICD.
  • A lead (wire) is threaded through the incision into a vein in the upper chest. With the help of x -ray monitors, the lead is then guided into one of the heart’s chambers. Depending on how many leads your ICD has, this process may be repeated to guide leads into other chambers.
  • The leads are attached to the heart muscle so they will stay in place.
  • The generator (battery) is attached to the leads. Then the generator is placed in its pocket under the skin.
  • A fast heart rhythm may be induced (started) to test the ICD.
  • When everything else is done, the incision is closed with sutures, medical glue, or staples.

Other Implantation Sites

In some cases, the ICD can be put elsewhere in the body. This could be in the abdomen, on the right side of the chest, or on the left side under the muscle. If one of these is an option for you, your doctor will explain more.

After the Procedure

You’ll stay in the hospital at least overnight. While in the hospital, your heart’s signals are monitored to see how the ICD is working. You can go home when your condition is stable. Once you get home:

Call Your Healthcare Team If You Have:

Call your doctor right away if you have any of the following:


Publication Source: FDA Heart Health Online
Publication Source: Heart Rhythm Society
Online Source: FDA Heart Health Online
Online Source: Heart Rhythm Society
Date Last Reviewed: 2007-01-15T00:00:00-07:00
Date Last Modified: 2005-09-16T00:00:00-06:00

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