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Discharge Instructions for Implantable Cardioverter-Defibrillator (ICD)

You had a procedure to insert an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD). Once inside your body, an ICD monitors your heart rhythm (the speed and pattern of your heartbeat). If this rhythm becomes too fast or too slow, the ICD sends out electrical signals. These help bring the rhythm back to normal. As you recover, follow the instructions below. Also follow any other directions you’re given.

Activity

  • Don’t drive until your doctor says it’s OK.

  • Limit your activity as instructed.

  • If you are fitted with an arm sling, keep your arm in the sling for as long as your doctor tells you to.

  • Do not raise your arm on the incision side above shoulder level for 10 days. This gives the device lead wires time to attach securely inside your heart.

  • Ask your doctor when you can expect to return to work.

Other Precautions

  • Every day, take your temperature and check your incision for signs of infection (redness, swelling, drainage, or warmth). Do this for 7 days.

  • Take your medications exactly as directed. Don’t skip doses.

  • Carry an ID card that contains information about your ICD. You should have been given a temporary ID card with information about your ICD on it. You will get a permanent one in 4 to 6 weeks. Carry this card with you. You can show this card if your ICD sets off a metal detector. You should also show it to avoid screening with a hand-held security wand.

  • Before you receive any treatment, tell all health care providers (including your dentist) that you have an ICD.

  • Keep your cell phone away from your ICD. Don’t carry your phone in your shirt pocket, even when it’s turned off.

  • Avoid strong magnets. Examples are those used in MRIs or in hand-held security wands.

  • Avoid strong electrical fields. Examples are those made by radio transmitting towers, “ham” radios, and heavy-duty electrical equipment.

  • Avoid leaning over the open hood of a running car. A running engine creates an electrical field. Other than your car, most items around the house, such as your microwave, are perfectly safe. Most common yard work equipment, such as your lawn mower, are safe. If you use commercial-grade tools, such as an arc welder, check with your doctor for recommendations. 

  • Make regular appointments with your doctor. He or she will check the device to make sure it continues to work properly.

Follow-Up

See your cardiologist in 7 to 10 days. Call and make an appointment as soon as you get home.

When to Call Your Doctor

Call your doctor immediately if you have any of the following:

  • A “shock” sensation from your ICD. This may feel like being kicked in the chest. 

  • Fever above 100.4°F (38°C) 

  • Signs of infection at your incision site (redness, swelling, drainage, or warmth)

  • Twitching in your chest muscles

  • Increased pain around your ICD

  • Bleeding at the incision site

  • Arm swelling on the side of the incision

 

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