Implantable Cardiac Defibrillators (Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillators)

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Living with an ICD

After recovering fully from the ICD implantation, most patients can resume normal activities, including exercise and sex. The doctor should prescribe the type and intensity of the exercise. The doctor also decides when the patient can return to work.

Every patient is given an ICD identification card. The ID card contains information regarding the ICD and instructions in case of an emergency. The card should be carried in the patient's wallet at all times and shown to other doctors and dentists. Occasionally, it will need to be shown to security officers at the airport.

What outside electrical sources are safe?

ICDs are well protected from most household electrical appliances in good condition such as radios, televisions, stereos, microwave ovens, electrical blankets, computers, vacuum cleaners, etc.

What outside electrical sources can interfere with the ICD?

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI scan) is a diagnostic test for studying the brain, the joints, the spine, the liver, and other organs. The strong magnetic field from the MRI scan can interfere with ICDs. Patients with ICDs should not undergo MRI scanning.

Digital cellular phones can interfere with ICDs. Therefore, the cellular phone should be held on the ear opposite from the side of the ICD. Do not carry the cellular phone in the pocket near the chest.

Theft detector gates in certain stores can generate signals that interfere with the ICD. While it is safe for patients with ICDs to quickly walk through these gates, they should not stand at or near the gates.

Similarly, the metal detector gates at airports can send strong signals that interfere with the ICDs. This problem can be avoided by presenting the ICD ID card to the security officers and walking around the gates. Hand held security wands (such as those used by airport security officers) have magnetic fields that can interfere with the device. Scanning by these wands should be avoided.

Heavy-duty electrical powered equipment, arc welders, a running car engine, and certain electrically powered surgical tools can also cause disturbances with the ICD. Patients should obtain permission from their doctors prior to driving a car or operating equipment which may fall into the above category.

Although a running car should not interfere with an ICD during driving, a patient should not lean over a running engine. Any other concerns and precautions should be discussed with your doctor.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 7/5/2016

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