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South Florida Electrophysiology was the first dedicated electrophysiology practice in Miami Dade

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Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator
What is an ICD?
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An ICD, or implantable cardioverter defibrillator, is an electronic device that constantly monitors your heart rate and rhythm. When it detects a very fast, abnormal heart rhythm, it delivers energy to the heart muscle. This causes the heart to beat in a normal rhythm again.
The ICD has two parts: the leads and a pulse generator. The lead monitors the heart rhythm and delivers energy used for pacing, cardioversion and/or defibrillation (see below for definitions). The generator houses the battery and a tiny computer. Energy is stored in the battery until it is needed. The computer receives information from the leads to determine what rhythm is occurring.
There are different types of ICDs, including:

  • Single chamber ICD. A lead is attached in the right ventricle. If needed, energy is delivered to the ventricle to help it contract normally.
  • Dual chamber ICD. Leads are attached in the right atrium and the right ventricle. Energy is delivered first to the right atrium and then to the right ventricle, helping your heart to beat in a normal sequence.
  • Biventricular ICD. Leads are attached in the right atrium, the right ventricle and the left ventricle. This technique helps the heart beat in a more balanced way and is specifically used for patients with heart failure.
How Does an ICD Work?
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The ICD is an amazing little computer. It monitors the heart rhythm, identifies abnormal heart rhythms, and determines the appropriate therapy to return your heartbeat to a normal rhythm. Your doctor programs the ICD to include one or all of the following functions:

  • Anti-tachycardia Pacing (ATP). When the heart beats too fast, a series of small electrical impulses are delivered to the heart muscle to restore a normal heart rate and rhythm.
  • Cardioversion. A low energy shock is delivered at the same time as your heartbeat to restore a normal heart rhythm.
  • Defibrillation. When the heart is beating dangerously fast, a high-energy shock is delivered to the heart muscle to restore a normal rhythm.
  • Bradycardia pacing. When the heart beats too slow, small electrical impulses are sent to stimulate the heart muscle to maintain a suitable heart rate.
Who Should Use an ICD?
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ICDs are used for:

  • People who have had an episode of sudden cardiac death or ventricular fibrillation.
  • People who have had a heart attack and are at high risk for sudden cardiac death.
  • People who have hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and are at high risk for sudden death.
  • People with at least one episode of ventricular tachycardia, an abnormal heart rhythm.
How Should I Prepare for the Procedure?
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Ask your doctor what medications you are allowed to take. Your doctor may ask you to stop certain medications one to five days before the procedure (such as aspirin).
If you are diabetic, ask your doctor how you should adjust your diabetic medications.

Do not eat or drink anything after midnight the evening before the procedure. If you must take medications, drink only with a sip of water.

When you come to the hospital, wear comfortable clothes. You will change into a hospital gown for the procedure. Leave all jewelry and valuables at home.

What Happens During the Procedure?
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You will spend a short time, typically 1 to 2 days, in the hospital following implantation. Most patients are on a heart monitor (telemetry) and receive antibiotics during this period. You may have a little soreness where the pacemaker was implanted. This is often treated with pain medication if needed.

You will lie on a bed and the nurse will start an intravenous line (IV) into your arm or hand. This is so you may receive medications and fluids during the procedure.

You will be given an antibiotic to prevent infection and a medication through your IV to relax you and make you drowsy, but it will not put you to sleep.

The nurse will connect you to several monitors. The monitors allow the doctor and nurse to check your heart rhythm, blood pressure and other measurements during the implantation.

Your left or right side of your body, from your neck to your groin will be shaved and cleansed with a special soap. Sterile drapes are used to cover you from your neck to your feet. A strap will be placed across your waist and arms to prevent your hands from coming in to contact with the sterile field.

The ICD may be implanted in two ways, but the endocardial (transvenous) approach is most common.

A small incision is made under the collarbone. The lead is placed into a vein and guided inside your heart chamber. The generator is placed under skin in your upper chest and attached to the lead(s).

On rare occasion, it may be necessary for your doctor to implant your ICD using the epicardial approach (outside your heart). This requires open-heart surgery. Instead of placing the lead through a vein and guiding it to the heart, it is sewn onto the heart. Your doctor will decide if this approach is necessary for you.
The ICD implant takes about two to five hours to perform.

What Happens After the Procedure?
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You will be admitted to the hospital for about one to three days. The nurses will monitor your heart rate and rhythm. The length of your hospital stay depends on the type of ICD procedure you have.

The morning after your implant, you will have an EKG, blood tests and a chest X-ray to ensure the leads and/or patches and the ICD are in the proper position. You will also go to the electrophysiology lab to have your ICD checked. This will involve testing the ICD and programming it to your needs.

You will be given information about the type of ICD and leads you have, the date of implant, and the doctor who implanted them. In about three months after the procedure, you will receive a permanent card with this information. It is important that you carry this card with you at all times in case you need medical attention.

You can do most activities when you return home. Avoid lifting objects that weigh more than 20 pounds or pushing or pulling heavy objects. If you had heart surgery, it may take longer to get back to some activities. Your doctor or nurse will discuss specific activities with you before you leave the hospital.

How Should I Care for the Wound?
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Keep the wound clean and dry. After five days, you may take a shower. Look at your wound every day to make sure it is healing.
Call your doctor if you notice:

  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Drainage from the wound
  • Fever
  • Chills

You will have a slight bulge under the skin where the generator is located. It will not be noticeable under clothes. If the ICD implant is in your abdomen, avoid wearing tight fitting clothing or tight belts so your wounds will not be irritated.

Should I Avoid Certain Electrical Devices?
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Most electrical devices, such as microwave ovens, do not interfere with ICD function. You need to avoid strong electric or magnetic fields such as: Some industrial equipment, high output ham radios, high intensity radiowaves (found near large electrical generators, power plants or radiofrequency transmission towers), and arc or resistance welders
Stay at arm’s length away from less powerful electric or magnetic fields such as: Large magnets, stereo speakers, airport security wands, antennas used in ham or CB radios. Cellular phones should be kept at least 6 inches from your ICD and not on the same side as your ICD.

Do not undergo any tests that require magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). You may have CT scans done if necessary.
If you have concerns about your job or activities, ask your doctor.

Will I Know When the ICD Is Working?
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You may or may not be aware of when your ICD detects and corrects your heart rhythm. Often it depends on the type of therapy you receive.

  • Pacing. You may or may not feel the impulses – usually they are not detectable.
  • Cardioversion. The shock feels like a thump on the chest, but discomfort does not linger.
  • Defibrillation. You may be unconscious (passed out) and not feel the shock. If you are awake, the shock feels like a kick in the chest, but the pain is felt for only a moment.
What Should I Do if I Get Shocked?
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  • Stay calm.
  • Sit or lie down. Ask someone to stay with you.
  • If you do not feel well after the shock, call your doctor or an ambulance (Dial 911 in most areas).
  • If you feel fine after the shock, you do not need to seek immediate medical attention.
  • Call your doctor within 24 hours.

If someone is touching you when the ICD fires, they may feel a tingling feeling; this is not harmful to them.

How Often Do I Need to See My Doctor?
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Regular follow-up is important after an ICD implant. Your doctor will tell you how often you will need to have the ICD checked. During ICD checks, the doctor will determine if the ICD had detected or treated any abnormal heart rhythms and will check the ICD battery. These visits are very important. You will also need to see a cardiologist at least once a year.

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