Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator


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


Before you get a defibrillator, your doctor may do tests, such as an electrophysiology study, to determine if you have the rhythm that the defibrillator will treat. Most defibrillators also function as a pacemaker if needed, and will be programmed to best treat your condition.

What to Expect

You’ll be asked to stop eating or drinking anything the night before your procedure. Your doctor may also tell you to stop taking certain medications the day of your procedure, and give you instructions to wash your chest with a special soap to help prevent infection. You’ll arrive several hours before the procedure, so lab tests can be done, a medical history and review of medications taken, to give your skin a final wash and so that an IV can be placed. You’ll also get an antibiotic before the start of your procedure to help prevent infection.

You’ll notice that the procedure room is kept at a cool temperature and full of equipment. You’ll get onto a narrow table with help of staff. A representative from the company that makes the device will be in the room, too, to assist your doctor. Once again, your chest and neck will be washed. The soap is tinted; that will wash off afterwards.

Most procedures take 1 to 2 hours, but the total length of time depends on your particular situation and needs. Either an anesthesiologist or a nurse will sedate you; you’ll either fall asleep or be awake, but relaxed and drowsy. During parts of the procedure, you may feel some pushing on your shoulder, but little pain.


After the implant is complete, and once you’re fully awake and talking, you’ll leave the procedure room. You may have a sling on the arm closest to the defibrillator to remind you to be careful on that side. You can usually go home that day, but it’s wise to take a few days off work to allow yourself to heal. You’ll need a ride home and someone to be there with you for a day or two to watch for problems. After a brief recovery period, you can go back to normal activities.

The day after your procedure, you’ll come back to get the dressing removed and replaced with steri-strips (these fall off on their own after a while), and you’ll get instructions on how to care for the incision. You might be sore for a few days. Your doctor can give you mild pain medication, plus instructions on what medications to continue or stop.

It’s important to keep any follow-up appointments your doctor sets, so that the pacemaker can be tested and programmed to best treat you.

Why Aurora?

We’ve been part of many research studies that have advanced the development of implantable cardioverter defibrillators, and our level of expertise putting in the devices and managing your care afterwards means you get the best results. We make sure we’re up-to-date and constantly working together as a team for you.

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