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Bicester, OX26 2UA
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Living with a defibrillator

After implantation

Typically the incision heals relatively fast. The patient usually stays in the hospital for five to seven days after implantation. Before he or she leaves the hospital, the physician tests the implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) again under short-acting anesthesia, triggers ventricular fibrillation and verifies if the ICD immediately terminates the event.

After ICD implantation, you should inform your physician if:

  • Blood or fluid comes out of the surgery scar
  • The surgery incision swells or becomes unusually warm
  • The pain gets worse after it had initially improved

Just after the operation, be sure to:Take all prescribed medication on time and always follow your physician's instructions.

  • Avoid hits and shocks in the implantation area
  • Avoid wide arm movements and carrying heavy loads
  • Avoid wearing anything that could compress the implantation area (e.g., tight-fitting clothing, belts, suspenders or girdles)

Balanced diet

As an ICD patient, you can contribute to your well-being by:

  • Eating a diet with lots of fruit and vegetables
  • Reducing your intake of salt as much as possible
  • Avoiding alcohol
  • Avoiding tobacco
  • Limiting your daily fluid intake to 3.5 pints (1.5 liters)
  • Maintaining a well-structured daily routine with sufficient rest periods
  • Engaging in regular physical activity such as hiking, swimming or aerobics (consult with your physician before beginning any exercise program)

ICD patient ID card

You’ll receive an ICD patient ID card upon leaving the clinic. It contains important information for physicians and medical staff, the date of your next follow-up appointment and a phone number for questions and problems.

Always carry your ICD patient ID card with you and show it before you undergo any medical treatment (including at your dentist’s office).

Follow-up appointments with your physician

A follow-up appointment is necessary one month after implantation and every three months thereafter.

During your follow-up visit, your physician will check the implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) settings and the battery capacity. If necessary, he or she may readjust some settings. This process is painless, since the data is transferred wirelessly between the programming device and your ICD.

Data from the device informs the physician about ICD activity and your heartbeat during any events. Be sure to:

  • Keep a diary where you record any perceived therapy
  • Inform your physician when you think you may have received any unnecessary shocks

Your daily routine

As an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) patient, you can resume activities that you would not have dared to do before your operation. Although your ICD cannot heal your heart disease, it monitors your cardiac rhythm reliably and discreetly. Most patients can return to their jobs after a short recovery.

Note: ICD patients who work with high-voltage electricity or complex technology can only work again after an evaluation of their working environment.

Emotional adjustments to living with an ICD

It usually takes about four months for people to adjust to living with an ICD. A negative reaction to the foreign object in the chest is normal shortly after implantation, because the patient feels dependent on the device. Research on the quality of life of ICD patients shows that in many cases, such a reaction is not directed toward the actual implant.

It’s important to remember that most patients ultimately have the opportunity to emotionally overcome their heart disease only after implantation.

After a shock

Immediate medical care is not necessary if you feel fine after a shock. If you had an episode at night and feel fine, you just need to inform your physician the next morning. Tell him or her about any shock you may have clearly felt from your ICD, what you were doing at the time you received the therapy and how you felt both before and after the shock. Also inform your physician if you received a shock without any prior arrhythmia symptoms.

Informing your physician about all shocks is important, as it enables him or her to check whether your ICD settings are correct and the device is treating your arrhythmias appropriately. Make sure that you reach a clinic as soon as possible if any you feel anything is wrong after you received a series of shocks.

Important: As an ICD patient, you should always carry the address and phone number of your physician and cardiac clinic. When you feel a tachyarrhythmia coming on (sudden heart palpitations, dizziness), find a place where you can sit or lay down. Ask someone to stay with you until the episode terminates. Also ask this person to call an ambulance if you are unconscious for more than one minute.

Bathing, showering, swimming

Since the ICD is hermetically sealed inside your body, you may swim, take a bath or take a shower without concern. Even if the device delivers a therapy, the electricity is not conducted through the water. Since loss of consciousness is possible during an arrhythmia episode, you should only go swimming if a lifeguard trained in heart failure is in your vicinity.

Resuming sports activities

You may resume sports activities after consulting with your physician. You should always enjoy such activities with a partner and avoid risky sports such as mountaineering and scuba diving. Even if you are not alone, sudden loss of consciousness as a result of arrhythmia is dangerous.


Regardless of whether the law permits you to drive a car or motorcycle after implantation, you should discuss this issue with your physician. Usually the physician will recommend that a patient not drive for the first six months after implantation, or before he or she has experienced the first electroshock.

Traveling by plane, train or ship is fine, provided you inform your physician about the details and extent of your journey.

Medical procedures

The field of medicine is continually using new technical devices and procedures, and only your physician can assess their effects on your ICD. Be sure to receive your physician's permission before receiving the following medical equipment or procedures:

  • Nuclear magnetic resonance tomography
  • Ultrasonography and stimulation therapy
  • External defibrillation
  • Diathermy
  • Radiation therapy
  • Lithotripsy (for breaking kidney stones)
  • Electrocauterization (for obliterating blood vessels)
  • Ablation (for obliterating tissue)


Tinnitus treatment that uses hyperbaric oxygen in a pressurized chamber is possible, provided the absolute pressures (atmospheric pressure plus generated pressure) do not exceed 3.5 bar.

Important: Tell your physician that you have an ICD implanted. Show your ICD patient ID card before all procedures so your physician does not use any medical equipment that could impair the ICD function.

Technical environments and electrical equipment

Your implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) is a medical device with the highest quality and safety standards—and with an excellent shielding from the effects of other electrical equipment. Yet still, interference with various technical procedures and equipment cannot be ruled out. These situations, however, rarely occur at home or in public.

Mobile and wireless phones

Reports of electromagnetic interference between mobile/wireless phones and ICDs are very rare because cardiac implants are well shielded.

Important: As an ICD patient, please observe the following rules:

  • Always talk on a mobile/wireless phone using the ear opposite to the side of the body where your implant is located
  • Hold the phone at least 6 inches (15 cm) away from the ICD
  • A distance of 12 inches (30 cm) is necessary if the transmitting power is greater than 3 W
  • Some mobile/wireless phones transmit signals even when they are in standby mode. For this reason, do not put such telephones in a pocket over your chest, but carry them on your belt or within a radius of 6 inches (15 cm) away from the implant
  • The effects of any possible interference are just temporary, and the ICD resumes normal functioning once the mobile/wireless phone is away from the implant

Electrical household appliances

The following devices do not have an effect on the ICD, as long as they are in proper working order:

  • Electrical household appliances
  • Radios, televisions and video equipment
  • Electric blankets
  • Stoves, including microwave ovens
  • Computers and fax machines
  • Electrical shavers and toothbrushes

Metal detectors

Security services use metal detectors at airports, embassies and other places to check whether people are carrying dangerous objects. Usually, such detectors do not have an effect on the ICD, but you should always show your ICD patient ID card, so that the security staff checks you using other methods.

Antitheft installations

Antitheft installations, in department stores for example, can cause interference and trigger unnecessary therapy.

Important: You should quickly pass through the antitheft installations in stores and not lean against the (sometimes hidden) security columns in the entrance areas.

High-voltage and magnetic fields

High-voltage equipment generates high magnetic fields. You should, therefore, take care when you are in the vicinity of unfamiliar electrical equipment.

If you work with high-voltage or other complex technology, you can only resume work after an assessment of the risks at your working place, and you should avoid any places and situations where you are exposed to strong magnetic fields.

In the worst-case scenario, the magnetic field will disable your ICD's monitoring features. As soon as you leave the magnetic field, your device will return to functioning normally.

You should always keep a safe distance from the following electrical facilities or equipment:

  • Ignition systems of running motor vehicles (12 inches/30 cm)
  • Arc welders
  • Large radio/TV transmitting stations
  • Amateur and CB radios
  • Loudspeakers (12 inches/30 cm)
  • Electricity girds and battery-powered electrical tools (12 inches/30 cm)



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