Inserting an ICD

ICDs are programmed to pick up and stop life-threatening arrhythmias

ICDs are programmed to pick up and stop life-threatening arrhythmias

  • An ICD (implantable cardioverter-defibrillator) is a life-saving device, similar to a pacemaker. It is programmed to pick up and stop specific life-threatening arrhythmias (abnormal heart rhythms) and restore your heart to its normal rhythm.
  • An ICD consists of a small 'box' with pacing wires which are situated within the chambers of your heart and provide information about your heart's rhythm.
  • A small incision is made and the ICD is inserted under the skin in your chest. The wires are inserted into a vein that leads to your heart. They are positioned with the help of an x-ray.
  • The ICD 'box' is attached to the other end of the wires and placed flat in a pocket under your skin. Stitches are then used to close the wound. The procedure is usually done under local anaesthetic.
  • Each device is programmed, specifically, to respond to your individual needs. The programme can be modified at clinic visits if necessary.

Taking care after surgery

  • Immediately following surgery the positioning of the wires can be vulnerable. For the first few days it is important that you take care by avoiding extreme movement of your arm on the affected side or by using it too much. Also avoid any sport or activity where you could get hit or kicked on the area where your ICD has been fitted.
  • It is important to keep an eye on the wound for about 10 days. If there is any sign of infection (such as redness, tenderness, soreness or swelling) you should notify your GP immediately, so that antibiotics can be started straight away.
  • Most stitches will dissolve on their own. If not they will be will be removed 7-10 days later, usually by the nurse at your doctor's surgery.

More information about everyday life with an ICD can be found on the Living with an ICD page.

Back to top