What is an ICD?
An ICD is a system made up of a small metal unit attached to one or sometimes two leads which are connected to the heart. These leads are used to monitor the heart rhythm and when it becomes very erratic or pumps too quickly the ICD delivers some therapy down the lead to pace the heart quickly for a few seconds to stop the fast rhythm or it may deliver a shock to the heart to put it back to normal.
Why do I need an ICD?
You may have experienced a rapid heart rhythm, palpitations, which caused you to collapse, faint or feel very unwell. You may have been resuscitated after a cardiac arrest. Or your doctor may have felt an ICD would protect you from having one of these heart rhythm problems when drugs alone would not be satisfactory.
How do they fit my new ICD?
The ICD leads are inserted into a large vein in the upper left or right side of the chest. A small incision is made in the upper left (or sometimes right) side of the chest and the ICD leads are inserted into a large vein. Under X-ray screening they are passed to the heart. Once in place the ICD leads will be tested to make sure they are in the right place. Finally the leads will be connected to the ICD unit which will be placed in a small pocket beneath the skin just below the collar bone. Once the ICD has been secured it will then be tested for sensing heart signals and for delivering a shock. This procedure will be carried out in a specialised operating theatre. The procedure takes between 1-2 hours and normally requires an overnight stay.
There is a nurse who helps to run the ICD service. They will see you in hospital and go through the procedure with you as well as the doctors and technicians. The nurse will serve as a point of contact for any problems, provide counselling or advice and can answer any queries you have. They also help to organise any follow up you may require once you get home.
For more information from The British Heart Foundation on ICDs click here.