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If you have had heart failure in the past or if you are at risk of heart failure your surgeon may recommend an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) and cardiac resynchronisation therapy.

Irregular heart rhythms (arrhythmias) can be a life threatening condition. An ICD will continually monitor your heart rhythm and pace or perform shock therapy (defibrillation) if needed.

What happens during cardioverter defibrillator implantation?

Cardioverter defibrillator implantation can be done using local anaesthetic and sedation or under general anaesthetic and can take 1-3 hours. Your surgeon will connect 2 or 3 leads into your heart using x-ray guidance. An ICD is a small, battery operated device that will be inserted under the skin in your upper chest. They may test the ICD when it is in place. The wound will be closed using stitches or staples. You may be given antibiotics to prevent any infection.

Going home after ICD implantation

You may need to stay in hospital overnight so we can monitor if the device is working correctly. You may experience some bruising around the implant site. Be sure and tell our staff if you are in any pain. Before you leave hospital we will explain any features of your ICD and give you a card to carry in case of emergency. You will not be able to drive so please arrange for someone to drive you home when you are discharged.

Keep your wound clean and dry. Use a waterproof dressing if you shower or bathe. For the first few weeks avoid putting any pressure on the arm nearest the implant and don’t raise it above shoulder height.

You will need to attend regular follow-up appointments. Your consultant will discuss any lifestyle changes or restrictions with you. In some cases you will need to report your implant to the DVLA. Check with the DVLA regarding any driving restrictions.

Most people make a good recovery and return to normal activities following ICD implantation. As with any surgical procedure there could be complications such as:

  • Pain
  • Bleeding
  • Infection in the surgical wound
  • Scarring

Specific complications could include:

  • Pneumothorax (air leaking into the chest from your lungs)
  • Technical problems with your ICD

Implantable cardioverter defibrillator and cardiac resynchronisation therapy consultants at Exeter Hospital

Exeter Hospital

Wonford Road, Exeter, EX2 4UG

01392 276 591
Switchboard 01392 276591
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Radiology 01392 262 119
Pathology South West 01392 262 165

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