Implantable Cardiac Defibrillators (Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillators)

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What happens after implantation of an ICD?

While in the hospital, the patient's heart rhythms, pulse, and blood pressures are routinely monitored. The doctor may check or adjust the settings on the defibrillator (done from outside the body). The nurses also periodically examine the incision over the implantation site for bleeding, redness, or other signs of infection. It is normal to feel some pain over the incision for 1-2 weeks. Medications are usually given to alleviate pain.

Patients are typically discharged from the hospital the day after the procedure. Once home, the patient can usually return to most activities. Instructions are given to avoid raising the arm over the shoulder on the side of the ICD implantation for several weeks. This precaution is to avoid dislodging the leads before they become secure inside the veins and the heart. Patients are also asked to avoid contact sports, vigorous exercises, and heavy lifting for several weeks.

In a week, the sutures over the incision are removed in the doctor's office. This is a good opportunity to discuss the following issues with the doctor:

  1. Level of physical activity;
  2. Return to work;
  3. Permission to drive automobiles;
  4. How frequently should the ICD and battery level be checked?
  5. What are the signs of device failure?
  6. When to replace the ICD (most ICD batteries last 3-7 years)?
  7. Precautions regarding interference with the device by outside power sources; and
  8. What to do when tachycardias occur.

Call the doctor if there is bleeding from the incision site, increasing pain over the incision site, fever, heat, swelling, or fluid draining from the incision site. Also call if the arm becomes swollen on the side of the implantation or if there is twitching of chest muscles, persistent hiccups, dizziness, fainting, chest pain, or shortness of breath.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 7/5/2016

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