If you have severe heart disease issues or have specifically suffered from a ventricular arrhythmia, you may want to consider an implantable cardiovascular defibrillator (ICD). These are small devices implanted under your skin that can save you from a heart attack. Here is information on exactly how an ICD works and how it might just prevent sudden death from a heart attack.
Who Should Use an ICD
ICDs are only for people who have suffered a heart attack, a severe case of cardiac arrest, or for those who are at risk of a ventricular arrhythmia. They are recommended for people with congenital heart defects that may lead to a sudden cardiac event that poses a serious risk of sudden death.
Implantable Cardiovascular Defibrillator Basics
An implantable cardiovascular defibrillator is a device running on batteries that is surgically implanted beneath your skin. Two very thin wires from the ICD will also connect directly to your heart. The device will monitor your heart rate and if it detects your heart rhythm is acting erratically—essentially beating too fast—it will send an electric shock to your heart to restore normal function.
ICDs are excellent for preventing severe cardiac events and sudden death, and are useful especially for patients who are considered at high risk for cardiac arrest. The best part is they work 24 hours a day, giving you the protection you need immediately when you need it.
The Difference Between an ICD and a Pacemaker
You may be wondering what the difference between an ICD and a pacemaker is. The two devices are in fact similar in many ways, but feature an important difference. The ICD will first deliver low-energy pulses to your heart in the event of a cardiac event, and then switch to high-energy pulses if the low-energy pulses are not working properly. A pacemaker will only deliver low-energy pulses.
Many ICDs also have built-in pacemaker function that allows you to better respond to different types of heart disease risks.
How ICDs Are Implanted
Your ICD will usually be surgically implanted near your abdomen or chest. Many surgeons opt to implant it right below your collarbone either on the left or right side of your chest. ICDs are usually encased in titanium and not much larger than a small pocket watch. These devices keep getting smaller as well, with most ICDs weighing no more than 3 ounces, which means you likely won't notice the ICD once its implanted. Techniques are also available to connect the ICD wires directly to your heart without undergoing open-heart surgery, so speak to your heart surgeon about the most unobtrusive surgical options.
After the device is implanted, a surgeon or technical specialist will program your device to fit your specific needs. You will also be given instructions about what kind of activities you should avoid while using an ICD and how to ensure your ICD stays working. Certain devices like MP3 players and other electronic devices may interfere with your ICD's functions, but your doctor will provide you a detailed list on what appliances and devices you need to keep your distance from.
Ultimately, you should review the risks of using an ICD with a doctor or heart surgeon (such as one from Mohan Jacob, MD, FACC, FCCP), and determine if an ICD is right for you.