ICDs are useful in stop sudden death in patients with identified, sustained ventricular tachycardia or fibrillation. Studies have shown ICDs to have a role in preventing cardiac arrest in high-risk patients who haven’t had, but are at risk for, life-threatening ventricular arrhythmias. View an animation of an ICD.
Newer-generation ICDs may have a dual function which contains the capability to serve as a pacemaker. The pacemaker feature would stimulate the heart to beat if the heart rate is detected to be too slow.
What is an Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (ICD)?
An ICD is a battery-powered device placed under the skin that keeps track of your heart rate. Thin wires attach the ICD to your heart. If an irregular heart rhythm is detected the device will deliver an electric shock to restore a normal heartbeat if your heart is beating chaotically and much too fast.
ICDs have been very useful in stop sudden death in patients with known, sustained ventricular tachycardia or fibrillation. Studies have shown that they may have a role in preventing cardiac arrest in high-risk patients who haven’t had, but are at risk for, life-threatening ventricular arrhythmias.
The recommends that before a patient is considered to be a candidate for an ICD, the arrhythmia in question must be life threatening and doctors have ruled out correctable reason of the arrhythmia, such as:
- Acute myocardial infarction (heart attack)
- Myocardial ischemia (inadequate blood flow to the heart muscle)
- Electrolyte imbalance and drug toxicity
Because many people do not understand their underlying situation – such as heart failure or genetic predisposition for danger of sudden cardiac arrest – and because ICDs are used primarily to stop sudden cardiac death, they in turn may not understand the benefits versus the limitations of having an ICD implanted. If you are one of those people, you will find information and guidance here.
How is an ICD implanted?
A battery-powered pulse generator is implanted in a pouch under the skin of the chest or abdomen, often just below the collarbone. The creator is about the size of a pocket watch. Wires or leads run from the pulse generator to positions on the surface of or in the heart and can be installed through blood vessels, eliminating the need for open-chest surgery.
An implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) is a little device that’s placed in the chest or abdomen. Doctors use the device to help treat irregular heartbeats called arrhythmias (ah-RITH-me-ahs).
An ICD uses electrical pulses or shocks to help control life-threatening arrhythmias, especially those that can cause sudden cardiac arrest (SCA).SCA is a situation in which the heart suddenly stops beating. If the heart stops beating, blood stops flowing to the brain and other vital organs. SCA usually causes death if it’s not treated within minutes.