Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillators

An implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) is a device a little bigger than a matchbox and capable of sending an electric current through the heart to prevent sudden death from a heart attack.

Some patients refer to them as their own personal paramedic.

The ICD is ‘implanted,’ or put in your body surgically and has two main parts, a pulse generator and one or more leads. The pulse generator constantly keeps track of your heartbeat. It’s like a small computer that runs on a battery. The lead is a wire from the pulse generator to the inside of your heart. It sends signals from your heart to the ICD and then sends an electric current from the pulse generator back to your heart.

Why do we need this innovation?

Normally, your heart has a natural ‘pacemaker’ and its own electrical system. If your heart is working properly, an electrical current starts in one of the upper chambers of the heart (the atria) and travels through the heart to the bottom chambers (the ventricles). The different chambers need to work together to produce a regular heartbeat. If they are not coordinated, then blood won’t circulate properly around your body.

Sometimes, your heartbeat may become irregular. A heartbeat that is not regular is called arrhythmia, which means that your heart chambers are not beating in a coordinated way. Treatment for arrhythmia depends on what kind of arrhythmia you have. Some arrythmias may cause milder symptoms such as dizziness but others can be fatal. You may need an ICD if you have had or are at high risk of having certain life-threatening arrhythmias.

Attack of the Facts