Treatment of Arrhythmia

Cardioverter Defibrillator (CD) Implantation

Cardioverter defibrillator implantation is a surgical procedure used to correct abnormal heart rhythm. A small electronic device called an implantable cardioverter defibrillator, or ICD, is implanted in the chest. The ICD is connected to one or more places in or on the heart muscle. By sending electrical impulses to the heart, it keeps the heart’s electrical system functioning as it should. It can deliver a life-saving shock to restore normal heart rhythm.

It is usually done for people who have suffered a heart attack or who experience potentially life-threatening arrhythmias in the ventricles, the lower chambers in the heart that pump blood to the body.

Who implants the ICD?
A team of medical professionals, led by an electrophysiologist, performs the treatment. An electrophysiologist is a specially trained cardiologist (heart doctor) who studies and treats the heart’s electrical system.

How is a cardioverter defibrillator implantation done?
The surgery generally takes place in the Electrophysiology Laboratory. You will be heavily sedated and sleep through the procedure, which takes between two and three hours.

Is it safe?
Cardioverter defibrillator implantation has similar risks to any other general surgery: the possibility of infection, bleeding and reaction to anesthesia. Overall, it is a proven and safe surgical procedure.

How should I prepare for the implantation?
You should not eat or drink anything after midnight the night before the surgery. Be sure to tell your doctor what medications you are taking, whether you have any allergies and if you are pregnant. You should prepare for a short stay in the hospital and arrange for someone to take you home. Most patients go home the same day as the procedure, or may stay overnight.

What can I expect after the implantation?
During your hospital stay, your doctor and the nurses will carefully monitor your heart rhythm and make any needed adjustments to your ICD system. You may at times feel the ICD delivering therapy. Depending on the strength of the dose, you may experience a jolt to the chest, mild pain or discomfort or nothing at all. If you feel an electrical shock, however, you should tell your doctor or the nurses immediately.

What happens after I return home?
After you return home, you should take it easy for several days. Your doctor will tell you when you can resume your normal activities. The incision will be checked in about a week. You will see your doctor for follow-up visits at the office or clinic. Follow-up visits are painless and take about 30 minutes.

You will be safe around cell phones, televisions, computers, microwave ovens and most other household appliances if they are properly grounded and in good repair. You should, however, avoid strong magnetic fields. Ask your doctor about safeguards and what to do in an emergency.

Call your doctor immediately if feel an electric shock; if your ICD pocket becomes painful, swollen, or red; or if you experience heart flutterings, rapid heartbeat, heavy sweating or dizziness.