Home Care After Implanted Cardioverter Defibrillator (ICD) Placement
This handout will help you learn how to care for yourself after an ICD has been placed. A nurse will go over this with you before you go home. You will also see a video that explains how to care for yourself at home.
What is an ICD?
An ICD is a small electronic device that monitors your heartbeat at all times. It is placed under your skin and attached to your heart with small wires. An ICD sends electric impulses to your heart if an unsafe rhythm is noted. It will do this until your heart returns to a normal and safe rhythm. There are many ways an ICD can be programmed. Your doctor or nurse will let you know how yours is programmed.
You had an ICD placed on __/__/___ by Dr. _______________________.
Your defibrillator shock rate is ______________.
The company that made your ICD is __________________.
Of note, every defibrillator can also function as a pacemaker if necessary. This pacemaker function will help pace your heart if it is beating too slowly or pausing too long between beats. If it senses a slow rate or a pause, it will send timed electrical pulses to keep your heart rate steady.
UW Health Heart and Vascular Care Device Clinic (608)263-1530
Purpose: 2 - 3 week check and device interrogation
Date ___________________________ Time __________________
- If DermaBond "Clear Glue" was applied to your incision, you may shower the day after your procedure.
- If a dressing was applied over your incision:
- Leave the current bandage on and keep the incision clean and dry for 72 hours, until _________________
- You may shower after you take the big bandage off. When you do shower, let the soap and water run down the incision. Do not scrub or rube the site.
- The steri strips (the thin pieces of tape over the incision) are used to hold the skin together as it heals. These should be left in place until they fall off on their own or the nurse will remove them at your first visit.
- Do not use any lotions or ointments over the incision.
- As the site heals, you may feel itching; this is normal. Do not scratch or rub the site.
- Look at the site daily for any signs of infection.
- Warmth over the sit
- Increased tenderness
- Fever (101.0° F or greater)
If you notice any of the above, you need to call the device clinic the same day. (608) 263-1530
If you have pain at the site, you may take any mild pain reliever, Tylenol® or ibuprofen (Motrin®) that has worked for you in the past.
For the first 3 months
- On the side your device was put in, do not raise your elbow above your shoulder or do any other movements that cause you to stretch.
- Do not lift over 5 pounds of weight with the arm on your surgical side.
- Do not reach above your head or out to the side.
- No swimming, over head motions, or golfing.
Wear a sling on the arm of ICD placement at night for the first week.
Your Implantable Cardioveter Defibrillator ID Card
You have been given a temporary ID card. Carry your card with you at all times. The device company will mail your permanent card in about 2 months. Be sure to let all people that you see for health and dental care know that you have a permanent defibrillator. This includes all doctors, nurses, dentists, chiropractors, or any other person you see for your health care. If they have any questions, have them call our clinic (608) 263-1530.
Electrical hazards to be aware of
- Cellular phones - should be 6 inches from your ICD. Place the phone on the ear opposite of your ICD or use a headset
- Theft detection devices –these are often around the entrances of stores. Walk through them as you normally would. Do not linger near these.
- Airport security - tell security personnel you have a device and show them you Medical Device ID card.
- Therapeutic radiation
Electrical hazards to avoid
- Working under the hood of a running car
- MRI (magnetic resonance imaging)
- Electrocautery – in the operating room or in the dentist’s office
- Arc welding
- Magnetic snap closure (in jackets) or magnetic name badges
Electrical appliances which are safe to be around
- Microwave ovens
- Hair dryers
- Electric blankets and heating pads
- Radios, TVs, and stereos
This is just a partial list, for more information on this topic, you may call your device company. The phone number is on the back of your identification card.
If you receive a shock from your defibrillator, please call UW Health Heart and Vascular Care Clinic at (608)263-1530.
If you receive repeated shocks, or if you receive a shock and feel that you are not back to your baseline condition a few minutes later, call an ambulance to take you to the closest emergency room.
After hours, nights, weekends, and holidays, the clinic number will be answered by the message center. Ask for the cardiology fellow on call. Give the operator your full name and phone number with the area code. The doctor will call you back.
If you live out of the area, please call 1-800-323-8942.
Your ICD will be checked every 3 months. In some cases, we may be able to alternate clinic visits with home remote checks. We will discuss this further at your first appointment.
Planning for the Future
Even if your device has been implanted as a preventative measure, we strongly encourage you to fill out an advanced directive or living will. This is a written record of the care you would choose for yourself during a terminal illness or injury. A terminal illness or injury is one that will cause you to die within the near future.
We would encourage you to decide the function of your ICD in a terminal illness or injury. You do have the choice to "deactivate" the shocks. If your ICD is deactivated, it would not shock you if your heart went into an unsafe rhythm, which could lead to a cardiac arrest (death). The pacemaker function of your device can be programmed independent of the defibrillator function.
We feel this is an important discussion that you shoud have with your family and medical providers, and make your wishes known in a living will.
The information provided should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
Last Updated: 02/26/2013
Copyright © 02/26/2013 University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#5722
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