What would you do?

Our ICD expert friend, Doug has put together a few tips on what to do if you have an implantable device and it activates its patient alert features, Ed

You’re sitting enjoying your day when suddenly your implanted device vibrates or beeps. This goes on for 10-30 seconds, then it stops.

What should you do?

NOTE: This only applies to defibrillator patients (ICD, SICD, or CRT-D devices) because there are currently no pacemakers on the market that vibrate or beep (*This may change soon, as there are rumours that the new Abbott pacemakers have the ability to beep).

Answer: First things first: DON’T PANIC!!

A vibration or beep from your device can mean a number of different things ranging from an item of no concern to a fairly serious issue. But there’s no way to know right then and there. If your clinic has given you instructions on what to do when your device vibrates or beeps, follow those instructions. If you haven’t received any instructions, here are a few suggestions (which you may want to review with your doctor the next time you see them).

1. Look around you to see if there is a magnet near your device. A vibration or beep could indicate that your device has come into close contact with a magnet. This does not harm your device. Simply move the magnet away from your device and go about your day. There is no need to contact your doctor or device clinic.

2. Do NOT send in a remote transmission, at least not yet. Only send remote transmissions when directed to by your clinic. This is because clinics are currently being inundated by device and wearable data. They don’t review every single transmission, especially if there is nothing of concern flagged by your device. That means if the issue at hand is a minor issue, say your device is reaching its normal low battery indicator (which is not an emergency issue), they may not review your data immediately. This is normal. It doesn’t mean they aren’t monitoring your device, it just means they triage the data they receive so they are focusing on the emergency issues first, not the minor issues that won’t harm you.

If you are reading this outside of the UK your remote transmissions may cost money. For instance, in the US, some insurance companies only cover 3 transmissions a year or don’t cover them at all. If you send in a transmission, you might be billed for it, and that can be several hundred dollars.

3. If your device vibrates or beeps once and that’s it, call your clinic during the next available business hours. If it happens Saturday night, call them Monday morning. A vibration or tone that occurs once a day indicates a minor concern. It should be addressed but isn’t an Emergency Room kind of visit.

If your device is vibrating or toning multiple times a day, like every 4 hours, this indicates a more serious issue, one that shouldn’t be put off for too long. It’s rare that this issue would be life-threatening, but still, you shouldn’t put this off for too long. This is when you call your clinic’s after-hours line (if they have one), or contact your clinic’s On-Call specialist. If you can’t reach them your options are to wait until you can reach them, or to visit your local emergency department to have your device interrogated. In this case, personally, it would depend on how I was feeling. If I’m feeling normal I would wait until I could reach my clinic. If I was feeling “off”, I would head to the hospital.

If at any time you feel a vibration or hear a beep AND you get a shock, this is an indication that something more concerning is going on.

Call your clinic immediately, and/or head to the nearest emergency department

Again, our devices are designed to vibrate or beep in certain situations. Some situations are urgent, others are not. We have no way of knowing which it is until our device data is reviewed by a healthcare professional. So, don’t panic. Take a few deep breaths, and follow the steps above.

Sounds & Alerts

We have put together some short videos that give you a chance to hear what some of the patient alert features are like. For further information check out our page on this subject.

1 thought on “What would you do?”

  1. What a useful contribution. I’ve watched several of Doug’s videos and they really helped me to understand how the device works and it’s reassuring to have a better understanding. In my experience, Pacing Clinics just don’t give you enough info. Thank you, Doug and Medtronic for keeping me alive!


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