Implantable Defibrillator

What is an Implantable Defibrillator or ICD?

An ICD or Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator is a small device powered by battery that is placed inside the chest to detect and stop arrhythmias or irregular heartbeat in a person through electrical impulses. This is a life saving device that helps in fixing abnormal and fast heart rhythms by constantly monitoring the same 24X7.

Why is ICD needed?

When a heart is healthy, it has a regular and steady rhythm. However, there are some people whose heart beat too fast or too slow. This condition is known as arrhythmias. This can happen due to:

  • Genetic causes
  • Ageing
  • Coronary valve or muscle problems
  • Previous heart attacks

The risk of arrhythmias increases when a person suffers from heart failure, coronary heart disease and even the electrical system of the heart. These devices treat the arrhythmias by pacing and defibrillation.

What are the risks associated with implanting ICD?

Just like any other surgery, there is some risk associated with ICDs. Though major risks are very rare, some common minor risks associated are:

  • Movement of the leads or ICD generator
  • Infection
  • Allergic reactions to the medications associated with the procedure
  • Heart valve damage due to the ICD leads
  • Blood clots or bleeding
  • Strokes and heart attack
  • In rare cases, death

How to prepare for ICD implantation?

You need to get several tests done before getting the ICD implanted. These tests are as follows:

  • An ECG or EKG for measuring the electrical signals that makes your heart beat. This shows whether your heart is beating too slow or fast
  • Echocardiography that uses sound waves for creating pictures of heart in motion
  • Holter monitoring that helps in tracking the arrhythmias that ECG or EKG may have missed
  • Event Recorder that is similar to Holter monitor and helps in recording irregular heart rhythms for a longer time
  • Electrophysiology study for identifying the area that is causing the irregular heart beats

In addition to this, you should plan for your transportation back home as well as ensure that all your regular medications are being monitored by your doctor.

What happens during the ICD implantation procedure?

During the ICD procedure, you are given medication for relaxing and reducing any pain caused by the procedure. During the surgery:

  • A local anesthesia will be administered for numbing the area
  • An incision is done fore creating a pocket for the ICD
  • The leads are guided to the heart through the veins
  • The defibrillator is then connected to the leads and ensured that its working properly
  • The ICD is then placed inside the pocket.

The whole procedure normally takes around 1-2 hours.

How to take care after the ICD procedure?

There may be some bruising at the incision site but that will go away after a few weeks. Avoid wearing clothes that apply pressure at the ICD site. Ensure that you attend your regular appointments with your doctor. This will help you in clearing any doubts regarding how to live with your ICD and avoid any problems with the same.

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