What is an ICD?

ICD stands for implantable cardioverter defibrillator. An ICD is a small device that's surgically implanted in the chest or abdomen. It's used to treat life-threatening arrhythmias (irregular heartbeats).

When the ICD detects an irregular heart rhythm, it sends an electrical impulse to the heart, which causes the heart to beat regularly again.

Why Do I Need an ICD? 

ICDs are used for people who are at risk for sudden cardiac arrest, a condition in which the heart suddenly stops beating. Your doctor might decide you need an ICD if you've had any of the following:

The ICD Procedure 

ICD placement is a minor cardiac surgical procedure.

During your ICD surgery:

  • You will be given medication to help you relax.
  • You will be given something to numb the area so you will not feel pain.
  • You may also be given an antibiotic to prevent infection.
  • The ICD will be placed through a small incision in your chest or abdomen.
  • With the use of a special x-ray machine, the ICD wires will be passed through a vein to your heart and then connected to the ICD.

You'll need to stay in the hospital for 1 or 2 days after ICD placement so your doctor can make sure it is working properly.

At Wake Forest Baptist Health, you'll have access to a team of health care professionals who can assist you with your recovery. Your team may include heart doctors (cardiologists), nurse specialists and others.

Risks Associated with ICDs 

ICDs can sometimes send electrical impulses when they aren't needed. Over time, this can damage the heart or trigger a dangerous heartbeat. The unnecessary impulses can also be painful or unnerving.

Talk to your doctor if you feel your ICD isn't working properly. It's possible that it can be adjusted. If not, it may need to be replaced.

Other Types of Heart Rhythm Devices for Heart Health

In addition to ICDs, there are several other types of devices that help regulate heart rate and rhythm, including:

  • Pacemakers
  • Automated external defibrillators (AEDs)
  • Cardiac ablation catheters
  • Cardiac angioplasty devices
  • Prosthetic heart valves
  • Stents
  • Ventricular assist devices (VADs). VADs include left ventricular assist devices (LVADs) and right ventricular assist devices (RVADs).

Learn more about ICDs in our Health Encyclopedia.

Request an Appointment with a Heart Center physician today.

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Last Updated: 02-14-2014
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Disclaimer: The information on this website is for general informational purposes only and SHOULD NOT be relied upon as a substitute for sound professional medical advice, evaluation or care from your physician or other qualified health care provider.