Many SCA survivors receive an Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (and/or pacemaker) within a short period after their event. and often the implantation of the device is a bit of a blur. Although you may be able to read it’s instruction guide it’s unlikely you will of experienced it’s inbuilt patient notifiers. Not all devices have notifiers and if yours does ask if you can experience them at your next checkup.
In general use your ICD will be silent, but in certain situations it may make sounds or vibrations to alert you of conditions that you need to be aware of. Notifiers can vary widely depending on the manufacturer, the device and even the individual programming on a device. Some device make sounds (generally beeps), some just vibrate, some do both and some don’t make any at all!
If you have a St Jude device you can find out more about their patient notifiers on their website.
Reasons for ICD’s to Alert
The reason an ICD may make audible alerts will vary depending on manufacture and device type, but there are common reasons and these are listed below:
- Your battery is low
- There is a fault with the device or lead(s)
- You have received a therapeutic shock
- There is magnetic field disabling or interfering with the device
- The device has been unable to communicate with your home monitor for longer than the recommended time (2 weeks?)
When the device battery starts to come towards the end of its life it will periodically emit a warning sound. The sound is usually at the same time of day and typically 6 months before depletion.
Device or Lead fault
If your device has a fault or there is something wrong with a lead an alert will also be emitted.
If either of the situations above arise you should contact your ICD clinic as soon as possible so that they may investigate the alert further and any remediable action taken.
If you have received a therapeutic shock and your device is beeping then you should contact your ICD clinic immediately. Not all devices beep after a shock and not all patients need to see a Doctor after receiving a shock, but if you feel unwell or are anxious it is always worth contacting your ICD clinic and they will be able give you further information i.e. whether shock was appropriate or not
If you get an alarm because of a temporary situation i.e. you are in a magnetic field you should try to rectify the situation as quickly as possible by moving away from the source. You should be aware that if the alarm continues to sound your device may be disabled and not activate should you require it. This is a potentially dangerous situation to be in, but you should not panic – the likelihood of you needing your device to activate at that precise moment is extremely low. However, you should attempt to remedy the situation as quickly as possible and if the alarm continues after moving away from the triggering source, then you should contact your ICD clinic as soon as possible.
ICD/Home Monitor Communication Failure
If you have a home monitor and the ICD has been unable to communicate with it for a prolonged period of time you may receive an alarm. For short holidays and breaks the general advice is for people not to take their home monitor with them, but if you are away for a prolonged period it would be worth checking with you ICD clinic first so that you are not alarmed unnecessarily.
Doug Rachac is an SCA survivor and ICD owner, but also a former Medtronic employee with good experience on implantable devices. He’s produced a excellent video in which he talks about devices and how they interact with magnets and security checkpoints.
It seems the manufacturers of ICD’s aren’t that forthcoming with what sounds their devices make, but we have found a number of recordings and other articles that you may find of interest.
Please be-aware that these are just examples of sounds you may hear from your device and they may be different from your actual one. It’s also worth noting these alerts and sounds can be programmed for each individual and varies from clinic to clinic and patient to patient depending on experience, circumstances and operational factors. If you want to know exactly what your ICD sounds like, ask for a demonstration the next time you visit your ICD clinic.
Boston Scientific Alerts
Unknown Manufacturer Alerts
Sounds on other websites
Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation in the US has a recording of a battery warning for an unknown device type