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Surgery: What to Expect – Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillators

Tachycardia (Fast Heartbeat)

Implanting an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) is not an open-heart procedure. Before the surgery medication is usually given to make you sleepy and comfortable. The procedure is performed under local anesthesia.

A defibrillator typically is implanted in the upper chest.

Detail - A defibrillator typically is implanted in the upper chest.

  1. A small incision, approximately 2 inches, will be made in the upper chest.
  2. One or two leads (thin insulated wires) will be guided through a vein and into the heart. 
  3. The doctor will then connect the lead wires to the implanted device, test the device, and program the settings.
  4. The device will be inserted beneath the skin and the chest incision will be closed.
  5. After the implant, there may be a slight bulge visible under the skin where the device is located. The leads are very thin and will not be visible.

You will usually stay in the hospital overnight and go home the next day with instructions on caring for your incision. For a short time after surgery, your doctor may want you to limit how much you move the arm that is closest to the implant site.

Information on this site should not be used as a substitute for talking with your doctor. Always talk with your doctor about diagnosis and treatment information.