If you have a history of an abnormal heart rate, heart disease or have had surgery on your heart, your doctor might suggest having a defibrillator implanted. This is called an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) and requires a simple surgical procedure to implant underneath your skin. The device is responsible for monitoring your heart at all times and warning you if something is amiss. It can also restore your heartbeat if there is an abnormal rhythm. Here is more information about the defibrillator device and when you need one.
How Does It Work?
The implantable defibrillator is a device that is battery operated. During the surgical procedure to implant it, it will be placed underneath your skin at your chest in order to monitor how your heart is beating. There are wires connected from the device to the organ so that it can send an electric signal if your heartbeat starts getting abnormal. It is an excellent way to help prevent cardiac arrest if you are considered a high-risk patient. Some defibrillator devices also work like pacemakers, sending electric signals if you have a heartbeat that tends to be on the slow side. The device is always working, no matter what you are doing.
Who Needs it?
Anyone who is at risk for a heart attack or cardiac arrest should consider a defibrillator. It is appropriate for people of all ages, from young children to seniors. If you have had a heart attack or ventricular arrhythmia, survived a cardiac arrest, or have a heart disease that increases your risk for cardiac arrest, you are a good candidate for the ICD. The ICD may also be recommended if you have certain medical conditions, such as Brugada syndrome or Long QT syndrome.
How is the procedure done?
A routine procedure is performed under anesthesia in order to implant the device. There will be a small pouch implanted under your skin near your abdomen or chest, with the device inside the pouch. The wires connect the device to your heart. The device itself is only about the size of a watch. You can have it implanted through your skin and blood vessels so you should not need open heart surgery when getting the defibrillator.
What should you know?
There are some things to know about living with a defibrillator. First of all, it will not cause you any pain or discomfort. Most of the time, you will forget it is there. You should limit contact with certain electronic devices, such as remote controls and microwave ovens. If an electric generator is nearby, stand a few feet away so it does not interfere with your device. You should not use electronic body fat scales or ab stimulators when you have a defibrillator. If traveling by plane, let the airport attendants know about your ICD in case the machine beeps when going through security. For more information, contact a Halifax Heart Center.