How is an ICD implanted?

ICDs are usually implanted under local anaesthetic. The device can normally be implanted in an hour, although this will depend on the type of ICD you have. Some ICDs require one lead, and some can require up to three leads depending on your heart condition. The more leads there are, the longer the procedure may last.

What happens during the procedure?

A typical ICD implant procedure involves these steps:

  • A small area of skin is numbed, usually near the collarbone,
    and the leads of the ICD are inserted through a small incision
  • The leads are threaded through a vein into the heart and then
    connected to the ICD device
  • The doctor can see where the leads are going by watching a
    video screen with real-time, moving x-rays
  • Usually two leads are implanted in your heart; one in the top chamber (atrium) and one in the bottom chamber (right ventricle) Sometimes an additional third lead is implanted in the left ventricle as well.
  • The ICD will then be programmed to suit your heart rhythm
  • Finally, the ICD is placed just beneath the skin and the incision is closed. Normally you can leave the hospital on the same day or the next day.

How do I know my ICD is working properly?

You will have an initial appointment with your doctor a few weeks after your device has been implanted to ensure your incision is healing well and your ICD is working correctly. This will be followed by regular visits to your doctor every three to four months.

You might also have the option of ‘remote monitoring’ at home. This means your device data can be checked by a special piece of equipment that is small enough to fit on a bedside table. The data are sent automatically over your phone line to a secure website that your doctor can check. Remote monitoring may reduce the number of in-person doctor visits.