Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (ICD)

What is an ICD?

An implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) is a small device that is implanted under the skin and connected to your heart. Depending on the type of arrhythmia, 1 or 2 wires are connected to the heart.

Once the device has been implanted, the ICD communicates permanently with the heart. In the event of a disturbance, it responds and sends the appropriate electric signal to the heart. The ICD also functions as a pacemaker by continuously monitoring the heart rhythm and sending a pulse whenever it slows down.

A working ICD carefully stores all information relating to the heart function. These data are easily read via a programmable device.

How is an ICD implanted?

  1. The operation is performed under general anaesthetic and last no more than an hour and a half.
  2. You are lying on an operating table specially equipped to take X-rays during the operations, which enables the surgeon to check the position of the connecting wires on a screen.
  3. The doctor or nurse sticks ECG electrodes on your chest to record electrical activity in your heart.
  4. You are then covered with sterile sheets and the anaesthetist induces sleep.
  5. The device and electrodes are implanted through a small cut under the collarbone. The electrode location is essential to the operation of the device, as:
    • The device must supply accurate information concerning heart activity.
    • The electrical pulses must be delivered to the best (most easily stimulated) location(s).
  6. Before the doctor connects the wires with the device, he or she will take a number of measurements. Once they are connected, the doctor will trigger a rhythm disturbance and check the subsequent electrical stimulation.


After the operation, you will have regular check-ups to monitor battery operation. The average maximum battery life is 8 to 10 years.

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