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Questions and Answers – Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillators

Tachycardia (Fast Heartbeat)

If your doctor has advised you that an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) is the best course of treatment for your tachycardia, you may have a variety of questions and concerns.

Here are some common topics of interest to individuals considering an implantable heart device:

Can I get an MRI?

Most ICD's are not considered safe in the MRI environment because the MRI could change the settings, temporarily affect the operation of, or potentially damage the device. However, Medtronic has ICD systems that are FDA approved for use in the MRI environment. The ICD system has a unique design, developed so that under specific conditions, patients may safely undergo MRI scans.

Talk to your doctor about the ICD options available to you, including a device that may allow you access to an MRI in the future.

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What should I expect during implantable cardioverter defibrillator surgery?

Typically, the procedure to implant a heart device is done under local anesthesia. You will be given medication to make you sleepy and comfortable. It does not require open-heart surgery, and most people go home within 24 hours.

Your doctor will provide more detailed information, but most individuals can expect to gradually return to their everyday activities shortly after the procedure.

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What happens when I receive a shock?

Experiencing a shock from an ICD can be a concern for many individuals. An implantable defibrillator shock will most likely take you by surprise.

You may feel fine afterward, or you may feel dizzy, sick, or disoriented after the shock occurs. It's important to talk to your doctor and have a plan in place so that you know exactly what to do when you experience a shock. Your doctor may want you to call in or schedule an appointment after you’ve had a shock.

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Will the device affect my appearance?

Sometimes individuals wonder if there will be a noticeable bulge where the heart device was implanted. In general, you may notice a slight bump under your skin where your ICD is located.

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Will I have to change my lifestyle?

An implantable heart device allows many individuals to participate in the activities they enjoy. Your doctor will have more information on activities you may need to avoid.

This might include activities where a few seconds of unconsciousness could be dangerous to yourself or others. However, most people resume their normal daily activities after full recovery from surgery.

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Where can I find additional resources?

There are many resources available for individuals living with a heart condition. Talk to your doctor or health care professional if you have medical concerns or health symptoms. 

Have more questions? There are over 500 answers at Ask the ICD.

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.