Understanding ICDs – Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator

An ICD – implantable cardioverter defibrillator – is a pager-sized device placed in your chest which detects and stops abnormal heartbeats (arrhythmias). The ICD continuously monitors your heartbeat and delivers electrical pulses to restore a normal heart rhythm when necessary. In the following video, Dr. Farris Timimi provides background and considerations to help determine if ICD therapy is right for you.

If you have an ICD, do you feel like you have the the equivalent of a paramedic sitting on your shoulder, always ready to “shock” the heart back to normal rhythm and prevent cardiac arrest? Or, are you worried with questions like, “What are the risks of having an ICD implanted?” “What does a shock feel like?” “Will I have to change my lifestyle?”

Interested in more discussions like this? Go to the Heart Rhythm Conditions Support Group.

Hi. I had my sixth ICD implanted this past November and cannot imagine life without the security of having my emergency room on board. The first was implanted in 1993 for treatment of my ventricular tachycardia episodes resulting from tetralogy of Fallot repair as a child. The programming in my last couple devices has been phenomenal when compared to early devices. While all have been able to identify and treat the V-tachs the ones now are very capable of determining many nuances to the arrhythmia and treat them successfully with pacing therapies so that do not have to shock me. In fact, I have had episodes that were detected and treated so quickly that I never knew they occurred until the clinic told me. They now last many years and provide the doctors with so much more information to help them treat me.

Shocks are not fun, but they are so fast that they are done before I have had time to react. My worst experience was when a lead went bad years ago. The device I had at that time had no way to tell me except to send shocks. Current devices monitor the leads and have a way to tell you that there is a problem with a lead or the device. The one I have now will beep. The last one I had would vibrate.

My last couple devices have had remote connection to my device clinic. Should the device deliver a treatment it automatically sends the info to the clinic the next night (it sits by my bed). Every 3 months it uploads all the detailed data and saves me a trip to the clinic. I still have an office visit yearly and whenever they need to make a programming change.

I have travelled the world with my ICD and I admit it took many trips before I could say I relaxed for security checks. That said I have never had either a problem or gotten any negative reaction from a security person. Years ago they might have asked to see the device ID card that the manufacturer gives you, but for many years they all recognize the universal sign - just pat your right hand over your upper left chest & they'll know what you are saying. (Likely they will say "pacemaker?" and you just agree). Then they will tell you where to go for a security check and most times they will offer a private screening if you prefer. I've gotten so used to it I just decline and let them do the pat down - always a woman. Sometimes a security person will be curious and ask questions about the device. At first it bothered me, but then I figured it was a good chance to educate them and make it easier for all travelers with devices.

All in all my ICD is just a part of me and I'm happy to have it.


I only have dental and tendon/ligament/muscle repair implants. I do not want nor do I need any implants for my cardio region. I am probably more healthy than most who have had a quad bypass. It happened Summer of 2015 when I was 65. Now age 69 and doing very well. My doctors all lay it on to the amount of walking and stair climbing I do regularly. Some days I get 15K steps.
Cardiologist told me to keep moving and act like a toddler does, always on the move. Haven't had a sedentary job since 1982 and would not want to go back. More fun to sometimes just go and take a walk around the building without having to worry I might get an important job related phone call.


I have had an ICD (5th one) since 2005. I have watched them implant mine up to test. I have been shocked 92 times (80 in 4 hrs) I am fine and to our knowledge no one has been shocked more than me and lived. Its ok no worries


Hoping to reactivate this discussion, as I am having an ICD installed in two weeks and would like to connect with others to learn from their experience.

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