Treatment & Care

Implantable Defibrillator (ICD)

What's it for?

Some people are in danger of developing a dangerously fast or irregular heart rhythm that can lead to death within minutes.

An implantable cardioverter defibrillator, or ICD, is a device that is implanted in the chest to detect and stop dangerous heart rhythms that can cause sudden cardiac death.

If the heart begins beating dangerously fast or its contractions become disorganized, the ICD delivers an electrical shock to jolt the heart back to a normal rhythm. ICDs have saved many people from sudden cardiac death.

ICDs are implanted in patients who are at high risk of developing dangerous rhythms in the pumping chambers of the heart. You may be a candidate for ICD implantation if you are at high risk for these abnormal rhythms because of damage to your heart (such as from a previous heart attack or heart failure), or if you have already experienced dangerous heart rhythms.

How it's done

ICDs are surgically implanted by an electrophysiologist, a cardiologist who specializes in heart rhythm problems.

You are given medication through an IV to help you relax, but you remain awake during the procedure. You are also given an anesthetic to numb the skin at the site of the incision. Your heart rate and blood pressure are monitored throughout the procedure.

An incision is made just under your left collarbone. The leads (wires) from the ICD are directed down veins until they make contact with your heart. The generator of the ICD is then placed beneath your skin.

The surgery to place an ICD typically takes from 2-4 hours.

If the ICD detects an abnormal heart rhythm, the generator will provide an electrical shock that travels down the leads and to your heart. This shock will restore your heart to its regular rhythm.


Complications from the placement of an ICD are rare. They include the following:

  • Infection
  • Reaction to the medication
  • Bleeding or bruising
  • Swelling
  • Damage to veins
  • Bleeding around the heart
  • Blood leaking in the heart at the site of the leads

Technology and expertise at Lee Memorial Health System

Lee Memorial Health System offers the most advanced and effective heart rhythm treatments to our patients.

In 2011, Lee Memorial Health System performed approximately 1500 electrophysiology procedures.

We have two fully equipped electrophysiology labs and one dedicated implant room. They are staffed by nurses and technicians who work exclusively on heart rhythm disorders.

View this topic in our Health Encylopedia.

Treatment & Care

Lee Memorial Health System offers many surgical and medical procedures for heart conditions.

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