Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator

Treating Cardiovascular Diseases in Wisconsin and Northern Illinois

An implantable cardioverter defibrillator is a small device put in your chest or abdomen and connected to wires (called leads) in your heart that is designed to treat abnormally fast heart rates, especially those that can cause your heart to stop beating.  The defibrillator will pace or give your heart a small shock when it goes into an abnormally fast heart rate that may cause you to pass out. 

The doctor programs the defibrillator to best treat your clinical condition.  You may require an electrophysiology study so your doctor can determine if you have the rhythm that the defibrillator will treat.  Most defibrillators implanted also function as a pacemaker if needed. Our doctors discuss the risks, side effects, and complications with our patients before the procedure.

How to Prepare for an Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator Procedure

To prepare for this procedure your doctor will have you stop eating or drinking, usually the night before your procedure.  Your doctor will also give you instructions on what medications to stop taking and what medications to take the day of your procedure.  Your doctor will also give you instructions to wash your chest with a special soap before the procedure to help prevent infection. 

Patients usually arrive several hours before the procedure so that laboratory tests, IV's, history, medication review and final skin wash can be completed prior to your procedure.  An antibiotic will be given before the start of your procedure to also help prevent infection.

Most people can go home the day after the procedure.  You may want to take a few days off after the procedure to allow your body to heal.  You will have some special instructions on moving your arm on the same side as the pacemaker to assist in a safe recovery period.  After your recovery period, you can resume all normal activity.  Your doctor will make specific recommendations based on your situation. 

What to Expect During an Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator Procedure

The procedure room is a cool temperature and full of equipment.  The table is narrow and the staff will assist you into a comfortable position on the table.  The staff will explain all the preparations as they get you ready for the procedure.  A representative from the company who makes the device is also present in the room during the procedure to assist the physician. 

The staff will put some cold soap with an alcohol smell on your chest and neck.  This will get your skin as clean as possible for the procedure.  The soap has a tint to it that will wash off after the procedure.

The length of the procedure will vary depending on your particular needs.  Most procedures take 1- 2 hours.  You may have an anesthesiologist or a nurse to sedate you during the procedure.  Most procedures are done with sedation to keep you comfortable so you may sleep through the procedure or you may be awake, but very relaxed or drowsy.  During parts of the procedure, you may feel some pushing on your shoulder, but very little pain.

Recovery after the Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator Procedure

You will be awake and talking before you leave the procedure room.  You may have a special sling placed after the procedure to remind you about activity restrictions on the arm on the same side as your defibrillator.  The doctor or associate will remove the dressing the next day.  You will have some strips over the incision site that will fall off over time.  Please follow instructions for your incision care.

Most people can go home the day after the procedure but you may want to take a few days off of work to allow your body to heal.  You will have some special instructions on moving your arm on the same side as the defibrillator to assist in a safe recovery period.  After your recovery period, you can resume all normal activity.  Your doctor will make specific recommendations based on your situation. 

Most patients are a little sore after the procedure and this will gradually go away over the next few days.  Your doctor will give you some mild pain medication to reduce the soreness.  Your doctor will give you instructions on medications to continue or stop after your procedure.

You will need someone to drive you home from the hospital and to stay with you for a couple of days just in case of any problems.  Your doctor will also instruct you on any driving restrictions after your recovery.

Your doctor will give you instructions for follow up appointments.  It is very important to keep your appointments with your doctor so they can test and program the pacemaker to best treat your condition.  The doctor will also instruct you what to do in case of a shock from the device.

Why Choose Aurora for an Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator?

Aurora Healthcare has participated in many research studies in the continued development of Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillators.  The physicians at Aurora have many years of experience in not only putting in these devices, but they are also experts at managing the care of patients after having these devices put in to get the best results for our patients.  The staff who support and assist the physicians have many years of experience as well.  The staff and physicians are constantly working together to provide the most up-to-date and comprehensive care for our patients. 

Aurora doctors are conveniently located throughout eastern Wisconsin and northeastern Illinois. Find a doctor or vascular specialist near you. To get a second opinion or if you need assistance finding a provider, please call 888-649-6892.