Deciding to move forward with an implantable cardiac defibrillator can be stress inducing. You may not know what to expect and how much your life will change after the device is implanted. While there are many emotions surrounding this decision, it is best to follow the instructions of a doctor before making your final decision. 

What is an Implantable Cardiac Defibrillator?

An implantable cardiac defibrillator, also known as an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD), is a battery-powered device that keeps track of your heart rate. This device is surgically placed under the skin on the chest with various wires connecting to the heart. The goal of this device is to prevent sudden death by detecting abnormal heart rhythms and delivering a shock to the heart in order to restore a normal heartbeat. This device may be necessary for those who have experienced:

  • A heart attack
  • Ventricular arrhythmia
  • A congenital heart disease
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Long QT syndrome
  • Brugada syndrome

If you feel as though you’ve been experiencing heart rhythm issues or have experienced one of the above, it is best to voice your concerns to your doctor so that you can be properly tested and assessed. 

What is Recovery Like?

If your doctor suggests implanting an ICD, the procedure will be completed promptly.  In most instances this is done after a shared decision with your physician and after a trial of medications.  Most patients are fully recovered within 2-3 weeks and can go back to doing activities they previously enjoyed. However, before fully returning to normal activities, it is important to discuss the situation with your doctor. They will be able to give you more personalized recommendations. 

How to Adapt to Your ICD

Adapting to life with your ICD can be a smooth process with proper understanding of the device.  After the initial surgical pain has resolved, usually 3-5 days, most patients are able to carry on normal activities.  Some key sections of recovery include:

  • Learning to take care of your device- Adjusting to the device may take some time. It is important to remember that it is an electrical device and can be influenced by some external objects. It is best to avoid coming into contact with magnets and strong electrical fields. Although most cell phones and headphones do not affect the function of the implantable cardiac defibrillator, some of the new phones like the iPhone can affect its function.  It is important to remember to keep your cell phone out of the chest pockets on clothes near your device.
  • Learning to take care of your emotions- Some patients who undergo the implantation may develop feelings of anxiety or post-traumatic stress surrounding the topic of their ICD. It is important to check in with your doctor to let him know how you’re feeling.
  • Taking the time to find long-term support- Make sure that you are receiving both physical and mental long-term support. Some physical forms of support include going in for quarterly check-ups or signing up for remote monitoring. Some mental forms of support include finding a group of people who also have ICDs that you can connect with. It can also mean seeking emotional support from loved ones. 

If you have any questions surrounding your ICD and your adjustment to its placement, contact your us at Virginia Arrhythmia Consultants for more information.

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