What is cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT)?

Cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT) helps restore a normal heart rhythm by pacing both sides of the heart. CRT delivers a steady pattern of small electrical pulses to the heart muscle through the leads. These small pulses encourage the heart to beat in a regular rhythm.

How will an ICD impact my life?

Many people with an ICD or CRT-D resume their normal daily activities after full recovery from surgery. However, there may be certain situations that your doctor will ask you to avoid. Your doctor or nurse will provide guidance for your particular condition.

What do I tell my worried partner?

An ICD or CRT-D is implanted to help you live a normal life. An ICD is there to provide you with 24-hour security against occurrences of sudden cardiac arrest (SCA). A CRT-D ensures patients feel better as their heart is pumping enough blood and oxygen to the body, as well as 24-hour security against occurences of SCA.

What are the risks of NOT getting a heart device, like an ICD or CRT-D?

Patients who are indicated for a ICD are at higher risk for sudden cardiac arrest (SCA). The ICD is implanted to help protect the patient from sudden cardiac arrest.

What is the difference between partial heart block and heart block?

There are three types of heart block. A heart block is a type of heart problem where the electrical impulses traveling from the upper chambers (left and right atria) to the lower chambers (ventricles) are either:

Can I wear a hearing aid?

Yes. A hearing aid can be worn in the ear if you have an ICD. If the hearing aid has any wireless accessories, such as a Bluetooth streamer worn around the neck, keep the accessory at least 6 inches away from the device.

Can I smoke electronic cigarettes?

An electronic cigarette will not interfere with an ICD.

What happens when they shut one of the three leads off? Does the device still work?

ICDs connect to different chambers of the heart with 1 to 3 leads. The device and each lead are programmed individually based on your needs. Talk to your doctor if a lead needs to be turned off and how that may impact ICD therapy.

Is it OK to use portable hand tools such as a skill saw, drill or electric screw driver? What about a power sander?

When using a powered hand tool, whether battery-powered or electric, keep the tool’s motor at least 6 inches away from your device.

Are inversion tables (teeter hang-ups) ok to use?

Inversion tables will not interfere with your ICD, but check with your doctor in case there are any medical concerns.

Can I use a heating pad?

Yes, you can use a heating pad. They have no known effect on ICDs.

Can keeping my smart phone in a shirt pocket affect my ICD?

Yes, it could. Your mobile phone, as well as any accessories containing magnets (such as earbuds or cases with magnetic clasps) need to be kept at least 6 inches away from your device.

What causes the ICD to vibrate?

Medtronic ICDs do not vibrate. If you have a different brand of ICD, check with the manufacturer.

Can I go bicycling?

Yes, you can ride a bike with an ICD. However, if using a stationary exercise bike, keep the wheel magnet at least 6 inches away from your heart device. Also, be sure to check with your doctor in case there are any medical concerns.

Can I get laser hair removal?

In most cases, you can undergo laser hair removal. Check with your doctor and the manufacturer of your ICD.

How will I know if anything is wrong with my ICD?

Your heart device can be programmed to make a beeping tone when something has happened that your doctor needs to be aware of. If you hear a beeping tone, contact your doctor. Your doctor can discuss with you what has happened. Your doctor can also program your heart device to send heart information automatically through a wireless device to your clinic. Your doctor will explain the type of wireless device that will be used to send your heart information.

Am I damaging my ICD when I sleep on the same side as the implant?

No, it is ok to sleep on your side as you normally would.

Why does my ICD hurt when I sleep on the same side as the implant?

This could be due to factors such as device size or your body structure. Discuss this situation with your doctor.

If I am in a swimming pool when I receive a shock, will others get shocked?

They may feel something if you are touching them when you receive a shock, just as they might if you were touching out of the water. They will not be affected differently because you are in a pool.

Who manufactures ICDs?

There are four main companies that make defibrillators, including Medtronic, Boston Scientific, St. Jude Medical (Abbott) and Biotronik. Several smaller companies also manufacture ICDs.

What is a lead perforation?

Lead perforation is a potential complication occurring rarely in heart device implant procedures. It occurs when a lead pokes through the heart wall instead of embedding into the heart wall muscle.

What does DDD and VVI mean?

DDD and VVI are pacemaker therapy modes that your doctor can program in your device. These are just two of many options. Each letter indicates something different (A=Atrium; V=Ventricle; D=Dual or both A and V; and O=none). The first letter indicates the chamber of the heart being paced. The second letter is the heart chamber being sensed. The third letter indicates how the device should respond when it senses a cardiac event (T=Triggered; I=Inhibited; D=Trigger or Inhibit; and O=none). Finally, the fourth letter, usually “R”, means that the rate response in the device is turned on (R=Rate Modulation on; O or blank = none or no rate modulation).

When I get pregnant, will my ICD have to be turned off during delivery?

It is generally not necessary to turn off an ICD when a woman is delivering a baby. Talk to your doctor about your specific medical situation.

Will you be able to see my ICD when I wear a strapless dress?

Depending on your body structure and the size of your ICD, you may see the device under your skin. The bump will be about the same size as the ICD and may be visible if you wear strapless clothing. The scar is typically about 2 inches long, just below the collarbone.

Can I wear a bra with an underwire?

Bras with underwires will not affect your ICD. However, the strap from any bra may cause discomfort at the implant site until the incision heals from the surgery.

How much energy is in a shock?

ICDs are programmed to meet a person’s needs. Typically, an ICD will be set to deliver 20-35 joules per shock. Talk to your doctor to discuss how your ICD is programmed.

How are the leads attached to my heart?

When your heart device is implanted, your doctor threads one end of the lead through a vein into your heart, attaching the lead tip to the heart wall. Your doctor then connects the other end of the lead to your heart device.

I am a teenager with an ICD. I am going to the prom, but don’t know how to get through security.

Always carry your heart device ID card. This card is helpful if your heart device sets off a metal detector or a security system.

My friend has a defibrillator on one side and a pacemaker on the other. Why do I have just a defibrillator?

Most ICDs today have both pacing therapies as well as defibrillation capabilities, so only one device is needed.

How much does each shock affect battery longevity?

The amount of battery used to deliver a shock depends on the specific ICD manufacturer and model, as well as the amount of energy your device is programmed to deliver. When longevity is estimated for ICDs, the frequency of device charging is included.

Can I continue to bench-press?

Remember to discuss exercise with your doctor and follow any recommendations based on your health needs.

What is inside an ICD?

Your ICD has an outer case, a battery, a small computer, and a connector block at the top of the case that connects the device to the leads. All electronic parts are sealed inside a metal case, sometimes called a “can,” made of titanium.

What is inside a pacemaker?

A pacemaker contains a very small computer that controls the pacemaker operation. It is powered by a tiny lithium battery. All electronic components of your pacemaker are sealed inside a metal case made of titanium.

Can I get an ID bracelet?

Medtronic provides an ID card when you receive your ICD implant. Try a web search (perhaps one that rhymes with oogle), or check with your local pharmacy if you prefer to wear medical jewelry along with carrying your ID card in your wallet.

Does the implant hurt?

It is common to have some soreness and tenderness at the incision site for several days after the procedure. There also may be some bruising. Healing of the incision is usually complete within 7 to 14 days. Your doctor may place restrictions on lifting and activities for several weeks following your surgery to allow for complete healing.

Can I use a body fat scale?

A body fat scale estimates percentage of body fat by passing electrical current through the body. Because this current may interfere with your ICD, it is recommended you contact your device manufacturer for a list of acceptable BMI scales.

Do I have to use remote monitoring?

Remote monitoring is an option that many people find convenient because it can decrease the number of clinic visits for follow-up. These days, some heart devices can even be monitored via an app on a patient’s smartphone. Discuss this option with your doctor to see if it’s right for you.

Are any of my leads recalled?

It is unlikely that you will receive recalled leads. But check with the lead manufacturer or your doctor if you have concerns.

How many leads will I have with my ICD?

ICDs connect to the different chambers of your heart using 1 to 3 leads. Your doctor will determine the number of leads implanted based on your individual needs.

How will I know if I get shocked?

Most people are aware of getting an ICD shock and each describes the event differently. Those who are awake during a therapy shock describe it as a “kick in the chest.” The shock startles them, but the feeling passes quickly. Some find it fleeting but still distressing. Others find the therapy shock a reassuring reminder that their heart device is protecting them from sudden cardiac arrest. Some people lose consciousness because of a rapid heartbeat, and they are not aware they received a therapy shock.

Will it hurt when I receive a shock?

Each patient describes an ICD shock differently. Some say it feels like a thump on the chest while others compare it to being kicked in the chest. It is normal to feel apprehensive, but also remember that a defibrillating shock from an ICD can be lifesaving. For most people, if there is pain, it quickly passes.

When do I need to go to the hospital after a shock?

Talk to your doctor or nurse about a “shock plan”— – what you should do if your heart device delivers a therapy shock.

Your doctor or nurse should give you specific instructions about when to contact your doctor if you have received a therapy shock.

In general, follow these steps if you feel the symptoms of a rapid heart rhythm or if you receive a therapy shock.

I feel an occasional “tingling.” What is that? Is it coming from my ICD?

You should talk to your doctor about any symptoms you are having.

Some devices can provide pacing or anti-tachycardia therapy and this may be felt by some.

Some devices also have patient alert features, such as making a beep or vibrating.

Check out our Sounds and Alerts page for more information.

Can I walk through the security screening equipment?

Always carry your heart device ID card. This card is helpful if your heart device sets off a metal detector or a security system.

I am left handed. Can I still play my cello if I have an ICD?

Your doctor will discuss any restrictions to activities that may be necessary after you have healed from your surgery. It is unlikely that your ICD will affect your playing the cello.

Will my ICD be implanted on the same side as my mastectomy?

An ICD can be implanted on either side of the chest, depending on a person’s unique anatomy. Talk to your doctor about your concerns.

Can my ICD be replaced with a device from a different company?

Each ICD manufacturer may have proprietary components and unique patented therapies, resulting in many variations among their devices. There may be differences in features such as battery longevity, size and shape, available therapies, and remote monitoring services. Your doctor will decide/recommend what’s right for you.

What does a shock from the ICD feel like?

Each patient describes an ICD shock differently. Some say it feels like a thump on the chest while others compare it to being kicked in the chest. It is normal to feel apprehensive, but also remember that a defibrillating shock from an ICD can be lifesaving. For most people, if there is pain, it quickly passes.

My car seat belt rubs on my ICD, is there something I can get to lessen the discomfort?

Some people wrap a towel around the seat belt. You also may want to check out seat belt pads.

Check out our ICD Protection page for information on commercial products to protect your ICD

Does an abdominal implant prohibit contact sports, such as football?

Some physical activities may be restricted depending on your medical condition or concerns about physical stress on your ICD. Consult with your doctor about activities to avoid, if any.

What do the alerts in my ICD sound like?

Your doctor will determine what conditions will trigger an alert. Ask your doctor to explain what the alerts mean in your particular case. The beeping tone is designed to get your attention, not to alarm you. If you hear beeping tones from your heart device, call your doctor for instructions. The alert sounds will continue until your doctor checks your device at the clinic and programs the alert off.

Check out the Sounds and Alerts page for more information.

What do I need to do about my ICD if I enter hospice care?

The shocking capability of your ICD can be deactivated if you wish. Consult with your doctor.

Can I wear a sound amplifier around my neck?

Any transmitting sound amplifier should be kept at least 6 inches from your ICD.

Are there any restrictions on travel to a foreign country?

Wherever you travel, your heart device monitors your heart and provides therapy whenever it is needed. You can travel knowing that support for your heart device is available around the world. Your doctor may also be able to check your heart device remotely, so it may be a good idea to let your doctor know when and where you will be traveling.

Can I have an ICD if I already have a vagal nerve stimulator for controlling seizures?

It is possible to have both an ICD and a vagal nerve stimulator. Some precautions may be necessary, however. Consult with your doctor.

Is there a maximum unpressurized altitude?

Depending on your specific ICD model, pressure ratings can vary. Check with your doctor and the ICD manufacturer for more information.

If I need an ICD, does that mean others in my family will need one?

Some heart problems do run in families but that does not mean all family members will have the same problems or need the same type of therapy. Be sure to talk to your doctor for more information.

How often does an ICD fail to work?

Long-term monitoring of ICD performance has shown that defibrillating a patient in sudden cardiac arrest is 98% effective in stopping the Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA).1,2

References:
1- Zipes DP, Roberts D, for the Pacemaker-Cardioverter-Defibrillator investigators. Results of the International Study of the Implantable Pacemaker Cardioverter-Defibrillator: A Comparison of Epicardial and Endocardial Lead Systems. Circulation. July 1, 1995;92(1):59-65.
2- Volosin, et. al. Virtual ICD: A Model to Evaluate Shock Reduction Strategies. Heart Rhythm. 2010;May Suppl:PO3-125.

Are there guarantees that the ICD leads will not break or fail?

Leads are placed in the hostile environment of the human body, making it hard to predict longevity. Your doctor will regularly monitor your device and lead function for any signs of malfunction.

What will the device look like when it’s in my body?

How an ICD looks in the body depends on individual anatomy and where the device is placed. Typically, there is a small bump under your skin.

Will I hear a warning or an alarm before I receive a shock?

Most likely, you will not hear anything before a shock. If an ICD senses an event that requires a shock, it responds immediately, leaving no time for any warning signals.

How will I know if my device goes off?

Your ICD is designed to deliver therapies that progress from the mildest form to be effective to an actual shock. If you receive a shock from your ICD, you will feel an obvious electrical jolt to your body, but each patient describes an ICD shock differently. Some say it feels like a thump on the chest, while others compare it to being kicked in the chest. It is normal to feel apprehensive, but also remember that a defibrillating shock from an ICD can be lifesaving. For most people, if there is pain, it quickly passes.

Will my partner get a shock if my ICD goes off during intercourse?

If you receive a shock during intercourse, stop and notify your doctor just as you would if it happened during exercise. Your partner will not be hurt by the shock. He or she may feel a tingle or a slight muscle spasm, but nothing more.

Will I need new leads?

You will probably not need new leads. However, your doctor will test your existing leads before, during and after your surgery. If tests indicate that it’s time for new leads, they will be replaced along with your ICD.

Will I have to stay overnight after an ICD replacement?

Most likely not. An ICD replacement is usually same-day surgery unless your surgeon replaces or adds a new lead. Then you may spend a day or two enjoying hospital food.

Can my ICD battery be recharged and the ICD implanted in someone else?

No. ICDs are designed for one-time use, and we wouldn’t recommend reusing one in another person, or even an animal.

Why? First of all, it’s illegal under U.S. Federal Law. It’s also impossible to guarantee removal of body fluid or tissue from the device, meaning a bad reaction is possible even after resterilization.

When will a rechargeable battery be available for ICDs?

People who have ICDs need to rely on a fast response from their devices. This can’t happen if time is needed for recharging.

What about the leads? Are they replaced too?

Typically, the leads are reused with the new heart device. If the existing leads cannot be reused, they will stay in the body and new leads will be implanted. In certain situations, the doctor may recommend a lead be removed and replaced with a new lead.  The lead removal procedure is usually performed by a doctor who specializes in lead extractions.

Will my ICD stop working when its battery runs out?

Your ICD has replacement time indicators, such as lower battery voltages. These give your doctor plenty of time to schedule a replacement before the battery runs out. Continue regular follow-up visits so your doctor can monitor your condition and device operation.

Will I be alerted when my ICD battery starts running out?

Your doctor will keep a close watch on your ICD battery life through regular follow-up office visits and/or with remote monitoring systems. By the way, Medtronic ICDs play a little tune when getting close to replacement time. Ask your doctor for a listen.

What happens to my ICD if airbags go off in a car?

If your air bags go off while you are in a car, whether you have an ICD or not, seek immediate medical attention.

What percentage of the device is the battery? The capacitor? Other components?

The majority of your ICD consists of the battery and capacitor (the component that stores and delivers charges). A smaller portion consists of the device’s electronics.

Can my ICD be “dented” if it’s accidentally hit with an object?

While ICD components are protected in titanium cases, you should still avoid activities that may involve hard physical contact.

While scuba diving, how many feet down can I go with my ICD?

Pressure ratings can vary among ICD models. Typical diving depths can range from 50 to 100 feet. Always check with your doctor about scuba diving restrictions.

Are body scanners at the airport safe?

Full body imaging scanners (also called millimeter wave scanners and 3D imaging scanners) are used in airports, courthouses, prisons and other public facilities. Your ICD is not likely to be affected because the scanning takes only a short time.

Can I get a shock if I use my phone on the ear closest to my ICD?

Phones, which use wireless signals, have electromagnetic fields around them. Some of these fields may affect the normal operation of your heart device. Your phone should be kept at least 6 inches away from your device.  When using a mobile phone, it is best to hold it to the ear that is farthest away from your heart device. Also, is a good idea to avoid carrying your phone in a shirt pocket that is close to the ICD.

Can I carry my phone in my shirt pocket?

No, your phone should be kept at least 6 inches away from your device. Cell phones, which use wireless signals, have electromagnetic fields around them. Some of these fields may affect the normal operation of your heart device. When using a mobile phone, it is best to hold it to the ear that is farthest away from your heart device.

Will an aviation transponder receiver (ADS-B) affect my ICD?

Aviation transponder receivers are used to track the location of an aircraft. They are designed to receive signals only from aircraft transponders and pose no threat to your ICD.

Can I jump start a vehicle?

When jump starting an engine, maintain at least 24 inches between the jumper cables and your ICD.

Will wireless battery chargers affect my ICD?

Wireless battery chargers that don’t require an AC plug-in are used to charge items such as cell phones, music players and tablets. When using this type of charger, keep at least 6 inches between the charger and your ICD.

Can I use a large AC charger around my ICD?

When using an AC charger of up to 100 amps, such as those used to recharge a car battery, keep your ICD at least 12 inches away from the charger.

Is it safe to be around my electric vehicle when it’s charging?

For some electric vehicles, there may be safety precautions when charging the battery. For example, you may not be able to sit in the vehicle while it is charging. Check with the car’s manufacturer for guidelines.

Can I drive a Tesla or other electric car?

Yes, it is safe to drive an electric car if you have an ICD or other heart device.

Will cosmic rays affect my ICD? I fly a lot!

Cosmic rays consist of high-energy radiation that strikes the earth from space. Most of these flares and rays are absorbed in the atmosphere and are unlikely to affect an ICD once they reach the ground.

If I get shocked when touching others, will they feel it? Will it hurt them?

If you receive a therapy shock, anyone touching you may feel the shock as a muscle spasm or a tingle, although it is unlikely. A therapy shock can be startling, but it will not hurt a person touching you.

Will my ICD warn me before it shocks me?

No. You will not receive a warning from your ICD before a shock. However, you may have symptoms that tell you a shock may be imminent.
Symptoms may include dizziness, lightheadedness, or a fluttering in the chest.

Will my ICD shock me after I die?

No, your ICD will only shock you if it detects a heart rhythm that is too fast.

Will my ICD shock me if my heart stops?

No, your ICD is designed to deliver a shock to treat heart rhythms that are too fast.

Are there any medications that defibrillator patients should not take?

There are no medications that interfere with your ICD. Talk with your doctor about any questions or concerns regarding medication.

Are there any foods that will set off my defibrillator?

There are no known foods that interfere with your ICD. That means you can’t use your device as an excuse to avoid eating your vegetables. Talk with your doctor about any other dietary questions or concerns.

If I work with electricity around power lines, what can happen?

If you work on power lines, you may encounter interference with your ICD’s operation. Consult with your employer and your doctor.

Can I stand under large power lines?

Standing under large power lines at ground level should not affect your ICD. However, stay out of any fenced areas such as substations.

Is it ok to work on my car?

Yes. You can work on your car as long as there is no medical reason to avoid working around engines. You should, however, keep at least 12 inches between your ICD and parts of the car’s ignition system.

Can I work over a running car engine?

You should keep at least 12 inches between your ICD and parts of the car’s ignition system.

Can I raise my arm above my head on the side of my ICD implant?

Check with your doctor about any restrictions. Some doctors do recommend limiting use of the arm that is on the same side as the ICD. The surgical site may be sensitive after the implant procedure and need time to heal for a number of days. However, after a while, you should be able to resume activities that you were doing before getting the device. Tennis anyone?

Will security devices that are located at entrances to stores, libraries and other public facilities affect my ICD?

You may walk through security devices and they should not affect your ICD. Simply walk through the area at a normal pace, but don’t stand or linger nearby. Always carry your heart device ID card. This card is helpful if your heart device sets off a metal detector or a security system. If a handheld wand is used, ask security personnel to avoid holding it over or waving it back and forth over your heart device.

Can my ICD be removed?

Yes. However, they are typically replaced with a new ICD.

Can I use a heated car seat?

There are no risks from using a heated car seat because there is at least 6 inches between the seat’s electrical components and your ICD. So continue to enjoy this small luxury during the winter months.

Can I use a vibrator?

Using a vibrator poses no risks. Just make sure the vibrator is in good working condition and has no electrical problems.

What should I do if I touch an electric fence or get a shock from an electrical outlet?

A momentary shock will not permanently damage your ICD. A memorable (longer) shock may cause some ICD settings to be reset to nominal values. Your doctor can restore your individual settings in the clinic.

Can I go near an electric cattle fence?

You don’t need to give up cattle rustling if you have an ICD. Both line-powered and battery-powered electric fences pose low risk because they are energized for a very short time – about once a second. If you accidentally touch an electric cattle fence, the momentary shock will be startling, but it will not permanently damage your ICD. The shock may temporarily prevent the pacemaker capabilities of the ICD from sensing a slow heart rhythm.

Can I tour the Hoover Dam?

Hoover Dam policy recommends that people with implanted ICDs do not tour the dam because of its 60Hz magnetic field. The magnetic environment within other hydroelectric plants, however, may differ so check with them to see what their policies are for people with ICDs. Being around such strong magnetic fields may result in your ICD delivering an inappropriate shock. Tour a non-hydroelectric dam if you want to see how great quantities of water are held back through the marvels of human engineering.

Can I get frozen shoulder from my ICD implant?

While it is possible for frozen shoulder (adhesive capsulitis) to occur with ICD implants, it is unlikely. Performing gentle arm motion during the healing process will likely prevent this condition from occurring.

Why do I have to limit my arm movements after the surgery?

Temporarily limiting certain arm movements can help with healing and also prevent dislodgement of the leads. You should be able to go back to your normal arm movements after you have healed from the surgery.

Can I work around magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) equipment?

MRI equipment generates large magnetic fields and radio waves that may interfere with ICD operation. Check with your doctor to see what precautions, if any, you should follow when working around MRI machines.

What is an AICD?

An AICD is short for automatic implantable cardioverter defibrillator. AICD is just another term for ICD.

Is there a way I can have my workplace tested for potential electromagnetic interference with my ICD?

Items that generate or use electricity or transmit wireless signals have electromagnetic fields around them. Some of these fields may affect ICD operation. Remember that most items used in everyday life are not likely to affect your ICD. However, if you are concerned about equipment in your work environment, ask your employer to measure electric field intensity limits that may interfere with your ICD or to hire an outside firm to do so.

Can I wear a urinary monitor that uses a magnet?

Yes, you can use a urinary monitor that includes a magnet. Just remember to keep the tether magnetic strap and battery compartment of the monitor at least 6 inches away from your ICD.

Can I have electroconvulsive therapy?

Yes, electroconvulsive therapy can be performed if you have an ICD. However, because this therapy introduces electrical current into the body, there may be an effect on your ICD. If you are considering electroconvulsive therapy, please consult with your doctor first to see if there are any possible risks from the procedure on your device and condition.

Can I have a colonoscopy?

A colonoscopy is an exam that uses a tiny video camera to look for abnormalities in the large intestine. A colonoscopy can be safely performed on patients with heart devices. Sometimes during the exam they may use electrocautery to remove polyps. In this case, the doctor performing the procedure would need to take precautions while using the electrocautery.

What is ischemic cardiomyopathy?

Ischemic cardiomyopathy (CM) is the most common type of dilated cardiomyopathy. In ischemic CM, the heart’s main pumping chamber, the left ventricle, has been damaged by a lack of blood supply to the heart. This is usually caused by a heart attack or coronary artery disease (CAD). The result is an enlarged, dilated, and weakened heart that cannot adequately pump blood through the body.

Will this affect my sleep?

ICDs are completely compatible with catching some Z’s. Right away, it might be uncomfortable to sleep on your implant side, but over time it becomes a breeze. If your device is pacing you, that also may take some getting used to. If, after some time, the lack of sleep has you off your rocker – you should really ask your doctor. If you find yourself in the terrifying reality of speaking exclusively in rhyme, seek immediate attention from an English teacher.

How do I use remote monitoring?

Because the remote monitoring systems can potentially warn your doctor of changes in your condition, resulting in early intervention within hours or days of the change, it is recommended that the remote or app-enabled monitoring be available as much as possible. If you don’t currently have remote or app-enabled monitoring set up, ask your clinic about using it. They will work with your ICD manufacturer to get you enrolled.

Can I still use a CareLink monitor if I do not have a landline?

Yes, there are different versions of CareLink™ monitors available that do not require a landline connection. Talk to your doctor to see which monitor will work best for you. Medtronic also offers an accessory that allows the monitor to transmit the data over a cellular signal instead.

Can I ride a motorcycle?

Generally, yes. Riding a motorcycle is considered a low risk. Do ask your doctor first, and check with your State Department of Transportation if they have guidelines.

Can I drive a hybrid (or electric) car?

No inappropriate interactions between ICDs and hybrid vehicles have been reported, so it’s a low risk.

I should still buckle up, right?

Yes, keep wearing your seatbelt. If it hurts or creates pressure near your device, just put some padding between you and the belt.

Is the cruise ship radar going to affect my ICD?

The ship’s radar is normally located far enough from any public areas that it won’t affect your ICD.

Can I go on a cruise ship?

Aye, mate. Go right ahead.

Can I go skiing?

Skiing will not interfere with your device, but do speak with your doctor before you start schussing. While many patients go back to their favorite activities-after a full recovery, of course-there are activities that cause concern.

Will it hurt to get a hug?

After you’re healed from the implantation, no, it should not hurt to get a hug. If you ever do feel lingering pain or discomfort around your device, call your doctor.

What if I get stung by a jellyfish?

Ouch! Let’s hope that doesn’t happen. But if it does, there shouldn’t be any interference with your ICD. Still, you might want to get that jellyfish sting checked out.

Can I ride a tram to the top of a mountain?

Yes. Riding on a train or tram poses a very low risk of interference with an ICD. However, we recommend talking to your cardiologist before your journey up the mountain, as there are lower oxygen levels at high altitudes.

Do I need to let the DMV know I have an ICD?

Yes, in all states, you’re obligated to report that you have an implanted device. Discuss this with your doctor or nurse and they can help you figure out how to do so.

Do extreme temperatures affect my ICD?

No. Not only is your ICD built to withstand stress, but your body temperature stays fairly constant as well.

Will people be able to see my device?

You may notice a slight bulge under the skin where an ICD is implanted. This is normal. How it looks depends on the size of the device, size of the patient, where it’s implanted and other things.

How deep can I scuba dive?

Exposure to pressures greater than 4 ATA is not recommended. That means diving no deeper than about 100 feet or 30 meters in seawater. Talk to your doctor about that and about any other concerns with scuba diving and your heart condition.

Can I box?

Boxing shouldn’t interfere with your ICD, although a blow to the device area could possibly dislodge one of the leads. (Just don’t fight anyone good.)

Can I use an induction range top?

Induction cooktops are very haute in the world of cuisine, but they do pose a concern to ICDs. Instead of heating up themselves, they use magnetic energy to heat the pan, made of steel, aluminum or copper. Therein lies the rub. Because of the magnetic fields, make sure your device is at least 2 feet away from the cooktop.

What about those prank hand shockers?

No, joy buzzers or other tools of mirth won’t hurt your ICD. But your prankster probably doesn’t know that…hint, hint.

Are electric dog fences dangerous?

Pet shock collars for electric pet fences, including remote controls and bases with antennas, should be kept six inches away from your heart device.  Buried wires should be at least 12 inches from your ICD.

Are there support groups for kids with ICDs?

There are support groups all over filled with kids still being kids after getting an ICD. To find a group near you, check with your clinic or contact Medtronic Patient Services.

Is there a way to protect my child’s device?

Yes. You don’t have to resort to bubble wrap. You can find padding made for protecting ICDs on the Internet. For help, contact Medtronic Patient Services.

Will electromagnetic interference (EMI) mess with my device?

Electromagnetic interference has only a temporary effect on ICDs. Once the device no longer detects the EMI, it will resume normal function. Don’t hold magnets within 6 inches of your device because that can temporarily disable the defibrillator.

Can I work as a plumber?

Yes, most work environments and tools of the plumbing trade won’t mess with your ICD. Just be sure to wear a belt, or suspenders, or something else to keep those pants up.

Can I work with lasers?

Yes. Lasers are light energy and shouldn’t mess with your ICD. However, some magnets or transmitters in laser tag vests may interfere with your ICD, so keep it 6 inches away from your device.

Can I get a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL)?

An ICD implant will disqualify you from obtaining a commercial driver’s license. Sorry.

Can I work as a pilot?

Sorry, you can’t. The heart conditions for having an ICD, or even the ICD implant itself, will disqualify you from getting a pilot’s license. You can find more information in the FAA Guide for Aviation Medical Examinars.

Will Wi-Fi mess with my ICD?

Wi-Fi shouldn’t be a problem as long as you keep your ICD at least 6 inches away from the wireless router and the receiver on your computer.

Can I work in a machine shop?

Most industrial settings won’t interfere with an ICD, but some might be more dangerous than others. A vague answer? Sure-but to be fair…it’s a vague question. Discuss the specifics with your doctor.

Will an ICD give me more energy?

If you get an ICD, you may notice a number of changes after implantation. Some people have more energy because the device is pacing their heart and delivering therapies to help with fast rhythms.

Can I go curling?

Much like the other broom-based sport, curling isn’t likely to interfere with your ICD. Ask your doctor just to be sure, but most people return to physical activities after they’ve fully recovered from surgery. Still, any sport that involves sweeping feels like work to us.

Can I go lawn mower racing?

Yes! Good idea. For a gas-powered lawn mower, just be sure to stay at least 12 inches away from the ignition system while it’s operating. We hope you win a really weird trophy.

Can I go to the gym?

Yes. Remember to discuss exercise with your doctor, and follow their guidelines based on your own health needs. It’s always best to ease back into a fitness routine. Walk before you jog, jog before you run, etc…

Can I exercise?

Yes. Exercise is the best kind of work out. An ICD isn’t implanted to limit you – it’s to save your life.

Can I skydive?

First of all, congratulations on your bravery.

I like to fall asleep reading my Kindle and it usually ends up on my chest. Will this interfere with my ICD?

E-readers have wireless transmitters to work on data networks, so we recommend keeping them 6 inches away from your ICD. So, no, you shouldn’t fall sleep with them snuggled up close. That’s getting a little too attached to your technology anyway.

Are airbags dangerous?

Airbags are great-most of the time. Unfortunately, the speed and force of airbag delivery might pose a danger to ICD patients. It likely will not damage the device itself, but there may be a danger of lead dislodgement. It just depends on your size, the type of car, and the type of airbag. Nonetheless, the immediate threat is the car accident, so it is a good tradeoff.

Can I drink coffee?

Yes, coffee is generally safe in moderate amounts. Caffeine is a natural stimulant and can cause an increase in your heart rate, but moderate amounts should not be enough to cause any problems with your device.

How do magnets affect an ICD?

Items that contain magnets, such as bingo wands, mechanic’s extractor wands, magnetic bracelets, clasps, or chair pads, magnetic therapy products, stereo speakers or earphones, and handheld massagers can temporarily affect the operation of your implanted heart device. We recommend you keep items containing magnets at least 6 inches (15 centimeters) away from your device.

Can I use an electric toothbrush?

Totally. Get your oral hygiene on. As with most electronic devices, we recommend keeping the toothbrush and its charging base at least 6 inches away from your ICD.

Can I go swimming?

Definitely. An ICD isn’t an anchor, literally or metaphorically. Just remember that you may feel restricted when extending your arm for a few weeks after surgery. It is still a good idea to swim with a partner, if needed.

Will working with blasting caps interfere with my ICD?

You’re going to do some exploding? Very cool. Blasting caps themselves won’t interfere with an ICD-just use caution with blasting caps that use electricity to ignite. Any electrical current that enters your body could be dangerous.

Are there support groups for ICD owners?

It often helps to talk with other people who have a heart device and ask them how they have adjusted to it. Ask your doctor or nurse if there is a support group for heart device patients at your clinic or a nearby hospital. Sometimes your healthcare team will recommend cardiac patients to mental health professionals. Your doctor or nurse will likely have referral sources available that can assist in stress management and adjustment to living with an ICD.

Can I be in the sun with my ICD?

Yes. Soak up that sunshine. No excuse to be a vampire…unless you were bitten by a vampire.

I should probably tell my new doctor that I have an ICD, right?

It’s important for any healthcare provider you see to know about your implanted devices, as well as the medical conditions that relate to them. It’s simply in your best interest. Lots of people find their ID card to be a good icebreaker when starting a conversation with a new doctor, clinician, or dentist.

Will my ICD be affected around wireless modems and routers?

Wireless modems and routers are safe to use as long as you keep them at least 6 inches away from your ICD.

Is it safe to use a mobile phone?

Yes, you can use mobile phones. However, mobile phones may cause electrical interference with your heart device when the phone is turned on and held too close to your heart device. Also, some accessories for mobile phones contain magnets that may cause interference, such as earbuds or cases with magnetic clasps. Any effect is temporary, and simply moving the phone or accessory away will return the heart device to its previous state of operation.

Can I use small power tools, such as portable drills or screwdrivers?

Definitely. Just keep them 6 inches away from your ICD.

Can I weld?

Welding with currents above 160 amps may temporarily affect normal ICD function. Check with your doctor. They might not know much about welding, but they can talk to you about interference with your ICD. Note: Aprons or vests will not effectively shield the ICD from the electromagnetic energy generated by welding equipment. Follow these safety precautions to avoid interference:

I don’t have to use a non-powered lawn mower, do I?

Get your yard maintenance on. It’s fine to use a powered lawnmower as long as you keep some distance between the running mower and your ICD. For electric motors, stay 6 inches away. If you’re using a gas-powered mower, keep the ignition (spark plug area) at least a foot away from your heart device.

Can I go through airport security?

Always carry your heart device ID card. This card is helpful if your heart device sets off a metal detector or a security system.

How about hunting?

You shouldn’t have any problem hunting with an ICD, but there are a few things to be aware of. Before implantation, ask your doctor if you can have the device placed on the side you don’t shoot with. If that’s not possible, you can always learn to shoot with the other hand. If you use a rifle or shotgun, rest the butt on the shoulder opposite from your heart device. Happy hunting!

Can I use a microwave?

Yes. Using a microwave won’t affect your ICD.

Are security badge scanners okay?

Security badge scanners shouldn’t give you anything to worry about. Keep the badge and scanner at least 6 inches away from your ICD and you’ll be fine.

Are there work-related restrictions?

There might be. It depends on what your work environment is like. After receiving an ICD, you may need to be more careful while using electrical tools, appliances, or other big fancy machinery, in order to avoid device “cross-talk” called electromagnetic interference.

How about a hair dryer?

Sure. Get glamorous, but keep the hair dryer at least 6 inches away from the device. That’s for handheld hair dryers at home. Those salon style ones you sit under won’t affect an ICD.

What effect will my device have on my lifestyle?

ICDs are to help you live better, not limit you. There might be a few lifestyle adjustments you need to make, but you should be able to resume most activities once your doctor has confirmed that your incision has healed.

Can I have a polygraph? Will it be accurate?

A polygraph poses a low risk to the ICD, and the ICD poses risks to the accuracy of the polygraph. If the pacemaker feature is delivering stimuli to your heart, the heart rate parameters of that lie-detecting might not be so valid.

What if there is a device recall? How will I know?

When a recall is issued on an ICD, manufacturers always notify every doctor that uses their devices-sometimes the manufacturer notifies the patients as well. It depends on what the Physician Quality Panel and the FDA recommend.

Can I have cataract surgery?

You see, it depends. As always, it’s best to say “What’s up?” to your doc.

Can I get dental X-rays?

Yes. Keep your teeth happy. Dental X-rays shouldn’t give you any problems.

What if I had external defibrillation, like with an AED (Automatic External Defibrillator)?

If an external defibrillator or AED must be used, it should be used. However, it may change the settings or damage your ICD. If external defibrillation or AED is used, the implanted device should be checked for proper settings afterward.  Consult your doctor if you ever get defibrillated externally.

Can I have acupuncture?

Don’t be all pins and needles about this one. Acupuncture is no problem, as long as it’s not acupuncture with an electrical stimulus. Electrical stimulus could be detected by your ICD, potentially resulting in an inappropriate shock.

Can I have an ultrasound?

Yes, ultrasounds are safe for ICD users.

What if I need RF ablation?

RF ablation is possible, as long as correct safety protocols are followed.

Can my ICD be checked over the phone?

Usually, but it depends on the manufacturer of your ICD.

How often will my doctor need to check my device?

Your doctor will prescribe a schedule of post-implant checkups, and they’ll just become a regular thing. At each one, the clinician will use a gizmo called a programmer that communicates with the computer chip in your ICD to check it out. It’s very simple, and it helps ensure that your device is meeting your needs, no slacking off. Often these checkups can be done at home with remote monitoring.

Are all devices the same size and shape?

No. ICDs are exactly like people.

Will my doctor know when my ICD shocks me?

Your doctor will know if you recieve a shock as the ICD records and stores data when therapy like a shock is delivered.

Why do ICDs shock the heart?

ICDs deliver shocks to save your life when pacing therapies don’t return your heart to a normal rhythm. After a successful shock, your normal heart rhythm will resume.

How big is an ICD?

ICDs vary in size, depending on type and model. But if you’d like to bust out your ruler, the average ICD size is 2.5 inches high x 2 inches wide x 0.5 inch deep (or 64mm x 51mm x 13mm).

Can the leads dislodge?

Yes. Lead dislodgement doesn’t happen often, but it does happen.

What if I’m allergic to the device or leads?

Let your doctor know if you’re worried. Allergy testing can be done – and if you need a custom device, they can order one with special coatings to prevent allergic reactions. An allergic reaction to the ICD is very rare.

How does the doctor decide which device to use?

Your doctor plays matchmaker to set you up with the device that you’ll get along with the best. They’ll consider the device features as well as your medical condition. If you have a preference, discuss this with your doctor before the day of your surgery.

What type of metal is an ICD made of?

The outer layer of a Medtronic ICD is made of titanium. Titanium is considered the most attractive material for biomedical applications and is used in many different kinds of implantable medical devices such as artificial hip and knee replacements, artificial hearts, dental implants, and many others.

How old do you have to be to get an ICD?

If someone needs an ICD, age is not a limiting factor.  ICDs have been implanted in children as young as several months old.

Are there kid-sized ICDs?

Currently, there aren’t any companies that make an ICD specifically for children. A regular ICD will perform correctly when programmed for a child, and might be implanted differently for the child’s comfort.

Can I turn the device off?

Yes. An ICD can be turned off, but only by a doctor’s orders. This is typically done only when a person is preparing for death, usually due to another cause.

How long will my ICD last?

The longevity of your ICD depends on how often it is used, and how it’s programmed. The typical range is 4-12 years. Say “What’s up?” to your doc for more specifics.

How are ICDs tested?

ICDs are commonly tested for device performance and battery life. This way, you’ll know that your device is programmed correctly and when it’s ready for replacement.

What kind of battery do ICDs use?

Battery type varies by manufacturer. For example, Medtronic ICDs use lithium silver vanadium oxide batteries.

How many people have ICDs?

In the United States, about 800,000 people have ICDs. 10,000 ICDs are implanted every month, so maybe you’re not all that special.

What is the record number of ICDs a patient has ever had implanted over their lifetime?

As of right… … … NOW, one patient has had 12 ICDs.

I’m anxious about getting a heart device. How can I cope?

It’s normal to be a little anxious about getting a heart device. We would probably be a little worried if you weren’t. But the best weapon against anxiety is information, and you’ve obviously come to the right place.

How should I prepare for surgery?

Before your ICD implant, ask that doctor of yours what medications you’re allowed to take. It might be necessary to stop some of them before the procedure. For example, it’s common for people with diabetes to adjust their medications.

What therapies does my ICD deliver to my heart?

An ICD can be programmed to deliver several types of therapies.  They can act as a standard pacemaker, deliver high-energy shocks, and deliver rapid pacemaker-like therapy to break up fast heart rhythms.

What are the parts of an ICD?

An ICD is made up of a small titanium can and at least one soft insulated wire lead. The titanium can holds the electronics, a built-in lithium battery and the high-voltage capacitors needed for a shock. The leads carry electrical impulses from the defibrillator to the heart, as well as information back from your heart so the defibrillator knows what it is doing..

Is infection common?

Infection isn’t all that common. Studies show a 1%-2% infection rate following implant.

Do I need to shave my chest before surgery?

No. Shaving is typically done by the highly trained surgical personnel before the procedure. Enjoy!

Will I be awake for surgery?

Not really. Sedation/anesthesia is used for the procedure. You might be slightly awake, but you shouldn’t feel anything. You probably won’t remember anything either.

Is the scar really big?

The incision does create a scar. Everyone heals differently, and over time the scar often becomes less noticeable.

Why is there a lifting restriction following ICD implantation?

A rushed recovery is often a less successful one.

How long will recovery take?

It usually takes about 2-3 days before you can resume everyday activities. Your doctor will tell you more, as some activities may be limited for several more weeks to allow time for a full recovery. Patience is a virtue.

How long will I be in the hospital?

Likely, not long. Most people stay just overnight after implant-which is good because hospital gowns aren’t exactly flattering.

What happens right after the surgery?

You will be monitored in the procedure area/recovery room until you are fully awake. Monitoring typically includes heart rate and rhythm, blood pressure and oxygen level until you are fully awake and then, depending the facility, you may be transferred to a short-stay unit or cardiac area for several hours to overnight before being discharged.

What are the surgical risks?

Risks can include, but are not limited to, infection, bleeding, punctures to the lung, heart, or vein during lead insertion, swelling and bruising at the implant site. Talk with your doctors about your risk factors.

What happens during the implant surgery?

First, an incision is made just below the collarbone. Then leads are inserted and attached to the heart, and then tested to make sure they’re working right. The leads are then connected to the ICD and everything is placed under the skin. Finally, the incision is closed up and you’re all done.

What is a bundle branch block?

Bundle branches are clusters of pathways that carry electrical impulses to different parts of your heart. A bundle branch block is a delay or obstruction in one of the pathways. These can keep your heart from pumping normally. Many blocks are caused by heart disease, some are there at birth. If the condition is serious, a pacemaker may be prescribed.

What is Bradycardia?

Bradycardia is a condition in which the heart beats too slowly. A healthy heart beats 60 to 100 times per minute, pumping about 75 gallons of blood every hour. With bradycardia, the heart beats fewer than 60 times per minute. At that rate, your body doesn’t receive enough oxygen-rich blood to fuel exercise or even just normal activity. As a result, you might feel dizzy, tired, short of breath, or have fainting spells.

What is ATP?

Antitachycardia pacing (ATP) is an ICD therapy often used to treat ventricular tachycardia (VT). If the heart rhythm starts to accelerate, ATP means the ICD will deliver small but quick, low-energy pulses to pull it back. Some patients may feel symptoms of VT, such as dizziness and lightheadedness, but for many, ATP is so fast and painless, they don’t even notice the episode. As long as a normal rhythm is restored, no further treatment is needed. How slick is that? ATP is activated at your doctor’s discretion.

What’s the difference between a pacemaker and an ICD?

Traditionally, a pacemaker is used to help treat a slow heart rate, a condition known at Bradycardia. An ICD is implanted to help treat tachycardia-a fast heart rate-or when there’s risk of Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA). Now they’re both found in the same device.

What is a DFT test?

During a DFT, or defibrillation threshold test, your doctor will put your heart into a fast rhythm, then watch the device deliver therapy to restore proper rhythm. This helps the doctor determine how to program the ICD to respond and possibly save your life when you really need it.

What is an implantable pulse generator (IPG)?

You know it better as a pacemaker. An implantable pulse generator provides timed electrical stimuli to the heart. It’s one part of a three-part system: the pacemaker with the electronics and power source, your heart, and the leads that connect the two.

What is an atrium?

An atrium isn’t just a nice big room with a glass roof. It’s also the medical term for one of the upper two chambers of your heart. If you’re referring to both of those upper chambers…”atria.”

What’s the difference between an ICD and a CRT-D?

An ICD can have one or two wires, called leads, depending on what your heart needs. One lead goes in the right ventricle, and if you need a second lead, it will be placed in the right atrium. A CRT-D system adds a third, attaching a lead to the left ventricle so it can help both sides beat in synch and thus pump more efficiently. If you’ve experienced heart failure, you’ll most likely get a CRT-D.

What are the benefits to having an ICD?

Having an ICD, in combination with a complete program of therapy, has proven to improve quality of life for many patients. It can reduce the symptoms of heart failure, increase exercise capacity and allow individuals to resume many daily activities.

How many folks have CRT-D devices in the U.S.?

Around 60,000 people receive CRT implants in the U.S. each year. That’s almost twice the population of Walla Walla, Washington. (So it’s pretty common.)

What is a CRT-D?

A CRT-D device delivers cardiac resynchronization therapy, which helps coordinate your heart rhythm so that your body gets the blood and oxygen it needs.

What are some of the inherited diseases that could make someone need an ICD?

Here are just a few genetic heart conditions that may put someone at risk of a sudden cardiac arrest and require an ICD: Brugada Syndrome, Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Dysplasia (ARVD), Long QT Syndrome, and different types of Cardiomyopathy (disease of the heart muscle).

What causes an arrhythmia?

Causes of an arrhythmia include heart disease, scarring of the heart muscle, congenital conditions, genetics, high blood pressure, diabetes, alcohol or tobacco use, stress, some medications, or the onset of a heart attack.

What is an arrhythmia?

An arrhythmia is an electrical malfunction of the heart causing an irregular heartbeat. It can be too fast, too slow, or erratic. Often they’re very brief. If they last longer, the heart could start pumping less effectively. This can often be corrected by a pacemaker, ICD, and/or medications. An arrhythmia is not a heart attack.

What is ventricular fibrillation (VF)?

Ventricular fibrillation is an exceedingly fast heart rate in the ventricles, the pumping chambers of your heart. When the ventricles are beating too fast, they start to quiver and can no longer pump oxygen-rich blood to the body and brain. If not treated promptly, ventricular fibrillation can lead to death. ICDs are primarily designed to treat ventricular fibrillation and other life-threatening arrhythmias.

What is atrial fibrillation (AF)?

Atrial fibrillation (AF or AFib) is a common type of heart rhythm disorder affecting the atria, the upper chambers of the heart. It occurs when the atria quiver instead of contracting normally. Atrial fibrillation increases a person’s risk for stroke.

What is heart failure (HF)?

Heart failure is when your heart cannot pump hard enough to keep blood flowing throughout your entire body. Heart failure is assessed by a measure known as ejection fraction (EF), or the volume of blood ejected with each heartbeat.

Can I use a snow blower?

Yes. Gas powered snow blowers can be used. It is recommended that you keep at least 12 inches between the running motor and the ICD.

Can I play football?

Hut-hut-hike yourself to your heart’s content. Football probably won’t interfere with your ICD, and most people resume physical activities after recovering from surgery. The potential for tough contact is a concern to talk with your doctor about but can likely be avoided with your sweet moves!

Can I use a Fitbit?

Yes. Fitbit trackers and other similar products have a low probability of interfering with your ICD, but we recommend keeping it 6 inches away from your device if it contains a magnet.

Can I use a chain saw?

Yes, you can. But keep it at least a foot away from your chest, which you’d probably do anyway.

Can I have sex?

Oh, you went there.

Why do I need an ICD?

A combination of several factors may put people at risk for a life-threatening arrhythmia. This includes prior heart attacks, reduced heart function, advanced heart failure and spontaneous VT or VF that is not due to a transient or reversible cause.

How does an ICD work?

An ICD monitors a person’s every heartbeat around the clock. If the heart rate is too fast or too slow, the ICD automatically sends small, painless electrical signals to correct it. If that doesn’t do the trick, the defibrillator delivers a shock to restore the heart to a normal rate.

What is the difference between a heart attack and SCA?

A heart attack is a plumbing problem. Sudden Cardiac Arrest is an electrical problem.

Can I use an electric blanket?

Yes, you can stay toasty under your electric blanket without harming your ICD.

Can I travel?

Wherever you travel, your heart device monitors your heart and provides therapy whenever it is needed. You can travel knowing that support for your heart device is available around the world. Your doctor may also be able to check your heart device remotely, so it may be a good idea to let your doctor know when and where you will be traveling.

What will the recovery process be like?

An overnight stay in the hospital is common. Most patients return to most normal daily activities within 2-3 days following surgery. It is not uncommon to have some soreness and tenderness at the incision site for several days. Bruising may also be noted at the surgical site. Incisional healing usually is complete within 7-14 days. There may be a lifting and activity restrictions placed by your physician for several weeks following your surgery to allow for complete healing.

Will I feel symptoms with SCA?

Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) symptoms are immediate and dramatic and can include a loss of consciousness, sudden collapse, no breathing and no pulse. Sometimes other symptoms can occur before a sudden cardiac arrest. These symptoms may include fatigue, fainting, blackouts, dizziness, chest pain, shortness of breath, weakness, palpitations or vomiting. But often sudden cardiac arrest occurs with no warning.

What is tachycardia?

Tachycardia is a word for any abnormally fast, irregular heart rhythm, in some cases up to 400 beats per minute. This makes it difficult for the heart to pump blood to the rest of your body.

Can I wear a radio frequency (RF) amusement park wristband?

Planning a trip to an amusement park? Enjoy your trip!

What is an ICD?

ICD is short for Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator.

Can I get an MRI?

A magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan is a type of diagnostic that creates an internal view of your body. The energy fields present during an MRI scan may harm a traditional heart device, which could endanger a patient’s health.

Is it safe to swim in a pool?

There are no restrictions for swimming in pools with your device and they are safe as long as there is no electrical current leakage into the water.

Can I play golf?

Probably.

Can I ride roller coasters?

Ask your doctor about this one before you ride. Some coasters restrict people with heart conditions. Other times shoulder harnesses can be very uncomfortable on the implant site, or even cause damage.

Is sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) a genetic condition?

The heart condition that causes sudden cardiac arrest can be genetic, yes, but it can be related to many other factors too.

What is sudden cardiac arrest (SCA)?

Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) can happen when the lower chambers (ventricles) of the heart beat very fast and irregularly, causing the heart to stop because it can’t handle the pace. SCA is the leading cause of death in the United States, claiming more than 350,000 lives each year. Approximately 92% of those who experience SCA do not survive. Defibrillation using an Automated External Defibrilator (AED) or an Implanted Cardioverter Defibrillator (ICD) is the most effective treatment for Sudden Cardiac Arrest.

Will an ICD save me from Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA)?

Most likely, yes. ICDs have been proven to terminate 98% of potentially life-threatening arrhythmias.

Why do I need to see an electrophysiologist?

Electrophysiologists (EPs) specialize in treating electrical disorders in the heart. ICDs and CRT-Ds monitor and treat certain electrical problems in the heart. Many EPs perform implant procedures and conduct follow-up device checks for patients with heart devices.

What causes a cardiac arrest?

A common cause of a cardiac arrest is a life-threatening abnormal heart rhythm called ventricular fibrillation (VF).

VF happens when the electrical activity of the heart becomes so chaotic that the heart stops pumping, Instead, it quivers or ‘fibrillates’.

The main causes of cardiac arrest related to the heart are:

Some other causes of cardiac arrest include:

  • electrocution
  • a drug overdose
  • a severe haemorrhage (known as a hypovolaemic shock) – losing a large amount of blood
  • hypoxia – caused by a severe drop in oxygen levels

Sometimes it is not possible to diagnose the cause of the problem and these are known as “idiopathic” – unknown cause.

What is a cardiac arrest?

A cardiac arrest usually happens without warning. If someone is in cardiac arrest, they collapse suddenly and:

  • will be unconscious
  • will be unresponsive and 
  • won’t be breathing or breathing normally – not breathing normally may mean they’re making gasping noises.

Without immediate treatment or medical attention, the person will die. If you see someone having a cardiac arrest, phone for help immediately and start CPR.

Is a cardiac arrest the same as a heart attack?

No.

A heart attack is when one of the coronary arteries becomes blocked. The heart muscle is robbed of its vital blood supply and, if left untreated, will begin to die because it is not getting enough oxygen.

A cardiac arrest is when a person’s heart stops pumping blood around their body and they stop breathing normally.

Many cardiac arrests in adults happen because of a heart attack. This is because a person who is having a heart attack may develop a dangerous heart rhythm, which can cause a cardiac arrest.

A heart attack and a cardiac arrest are both emergency situations. Call the emergency services straight away.

Do I have to stop driving if I have a cardiac arrest?

The simple answer is yes, but usually only temporarily.

The length of the period that you cannot drive for is mainly dependent on the cause of your cardiac arrest and the remedial action taken.

For example, if you had a heart attack as the cause and you had stents and medications to prevent future episodes then the period to stop driving would typically be 1 month.

If you had to have an ICD fitted then the period that you had to stop driving would typically be 6 months from the date of the implant – not the date of the cardiac arrest

Can I drive without my physical licence?

It may be possible, it depends on whether you satisfy the criteria for Section 88 of the Road Traffic Act.

See “What is Section 88” for more information.

How can I view my licence information and status?

You can find information and the status of your driving licence by using the government licence check facility.

You will need your driving licence number, national insurance number and postcode.

You can see details about who the licence is for when it is valid from/to, the current status, what vehicles you can drive, any penalties or disqualifications.

You can also get a code so that you can share your licence details with another party such as an employer or car hire company.

Do I have to inform my insurance company?

The official advice is that you should inform your insurance company of your heart condition and implant (ICD/pacemaker) if you have one.

However, from our members experience most insurance companies do not seem to be interested in the fact that you have had a cardiac arrest. If you have a valid licence to drive then they are generally happy to take your money and insure you.  

Of course, if you are on a prolonged suspension and your car isn’t going to be used you may wish to speak to them to alter your level of cover and potentially save a few pounds.

Can I drive if I get a shock from my ICD?

If at any time you receive an appropriate shock from your ICD i.e. one that is correcting a potentially fatal arrhythmia, you must surrender your licence and stop driving for 6 months.  

If you were incapacitated i.e. went unconscious whilst you received the shock the suspension is 2 years. This may be reduced to 6 months if your cardiologist takes steps to prevent any further events requiring a shock eg starting or adjusting medications.

If you receive an inappropriate shock i.e. the shock was unnecessary, then you will receive a 1 month suspension.

If you are driving whilst you receive a shock you should stop as soon as is safe to do so, and should not continue until the cause of the shock has been investigated.

For more information about shocks see our ICD shocks page.

What is Section 88?

Section 88 refers to a part of the Road Traffic Act that may allow you to continue driving even if you do not physically have your driving licence.

There is a provision in the law, under section 88 that MAY allow you to drive while the DVLA process your application.

You must meet the following criteria:

  • You must be confident that your application will not be refused due to any medical condition you declared.
  • You must have held a valid driving licence and only drive vehicles you are qualified to drive.
  • You must meet any conditions specified on your previous licence
  • You must have sent your fully completed application (re-application) to DVLA in the last 12 months
  • Your licence has not been refused or revoked
  • You are not disqualified from holding a licence by a court

If you fulfil these points you can drive again even though your licence has not been returned to you.

DVLA cannot tell you if this section of the law applies to you.

For more information read the government leaflet on Section 88

How do I get my licence back?

Once your advised period of voluntary surrender has elapsed you will be able to re-apply again and have your licence returned to you.  

You can find information on this process on the government website and a link to download the relevant form.

Once you have mailed this you will receive a letter from DVLA stating that they have written to your consultant with an expected 6-week turnaround.  You do not need to do anything further other than call them back on several occasions as this part of the process takes a long time!

The DVLA will send your cardiologist forms to get more information about your cardiac status.  Your cardiologist will need to sign these forms to say they should issue you with a licence. This all takes time, and it’s a good idea to chase your cardiologist to make sure you’re not forgotten.

It’s also worth starting the process a good 8 weeks before the date your period of driving restriction ends.

If your licence was revoked, as opposed to voluntarily surrendered, you may find that the process to get your licence back longer and more arduous.

How can I tell if my licence was revoked or not?

See the “How can I view my licence information and status” FAQ on how to do this.

Why was my licence revoked?

In the SCA UK Facebook Group we are seeing an increasing number of members who get their licence revoked when they voluntarily surrender it.

At this time it is not clear why this happens as we have seen members with apparently similar circumstances have different outcomes.

The DVLA can revoke your licence on medical grounds and it may be the differences in the details that they make their decision but for now, it is a bit of a mystery.

Our only advice would be to not use the online form but as soon as possible fill in the paper forms and send in your licence stating that you are voluntarily surrendering your licence. This is because anecdotal evidence from the group indicates that if you use the online form it appears you’re more likely to get your licence revoked.

Do I need to inform the DVLA I had a cardiac arrest?

It is YOUR responsibility to tell the DVLA about a health or medical condition that could affect your driving.

You can be fined up to £1,000 if you do not tell DVLA about a medical condition that affects your driving.

You can do this via the “Report a medical condition” page.

You’ll need to enter details about your current driving licence and your condition. You might also need to give your GP’s name and address.

How this will affect your ability to drive will depend on what the cause of your cardiac arrest was, any remedial treatment you have had and any subsequent or other conditions you have.

You will have to enter or select from a list of conditions that you have and may affect your ability to drive.

The list is quite long and covers many conditions but you will NOT find cardiac arrest amongst them as it is an event, rather than a condition.

Conditions that are on the list and may apply to cardiac arrest survivors:

When does my period of suspension start from?

The date of your suspension will usually start from the date that you have any remedial work or get a formal diagnosis of a condition, not necessarily the date of your cardiac arrest.

For example, if you have a cardiac arrest and 2 weeks later get an ICD implant, then the suspension will start from the date of the implant, not the arrest.

If you have a heart attack as the cause of your cardiac arrest, the problem is often looked at and dealt within a short time frame (same day) so the suspension will start from that day.

How long will I have to stop driving for?

It will largely depend on your individual circumstances and medical conditions but common suspension periods are as follows:

If you had a heart attack as the cause of your cardiac arrest and it was remedied with medications and/or stents then the suspension period is 1 month.

If you had to have an ICD fitted then the suspension period will be 6 months from the date of the implant. If you have any shocks further suspensions will apply and the length will vary depending on a number of factors. See “Can I drive if I get a shock from my ICD” for more information.

You may also have to temporarily stop driving if your anti-arrhythmic medications are changed, typically for 1 month.

If your driving licence was revoked you’ll have to wait until all medical enquiries are complete. You will also need to have your driving licence back before you can start driving again.

You can check the DVLA information for medical professionals regarding assessing fitness to drive here, and this shows the rules regarding whether you can drive or not and if not, for how long.

How do I contact the DVLA?

Full contact details of the DVLA Medical Group are on this page on the government website

What form do I use to tell the DVLA I have an ICD?

You must use the DEFIB1 form which can be downloaded from the government website on this page.

If you are a coach, bus or lorry driver you must use the VOCH1 form.

Can I drive an HGV or commercial vehicle after a cardiac arrest?

This is one for your doctor.

You should be assessed by your doctor using these guidelines which determine the rules for assessing drivers with cardiac conditions.

Many of the conditions listed will mean that there will be some period of suspension, but you may be allowed to drive again if you can meet certain conditions including assessment by a specialist cardiologist.

However, if you have an ICD implanted you will not be able to drive an HGV or commercial vehicle.

Do all cardiac arrest survivors get the same suspension period?

No.

The length of your suspension can vary depending on a number of factors including but not limited to cause of your cardiac, remedial actions taken, subsequent or other conditions.

It may seem tempting to compare one person’s case with another but it is often difficult to do so because of not having the full facts about a person’s situation.

But I need my car for work!

If you are unable to drive because of your cardiac arrest and you are in a position to return to work, you may apply for the “Access to Work” scheme which may help with other transport costs, such as public transport or even private taxi’s.

For example, a member of SCA UK who was a teacher when she had her SCA was unable to return to work because she had an ICD fitted and this meant a driving suspension period of 6 months. She lived in the country and there was no suitable public transport to get her to her school. The “Access to Work” scheme gave her a grant to allow her to get a taxi to and from her place of work.

If you can get to work by public transport you might be able to get reduced price travel such as a Disabled Person’s Railcard. If your licence has been revoked for medical reasons, you are entitled to a free bus pass in most areas. In Northern Ireland, you can get a SmartPass giving you half price travel. In London, you can get a Freedom Pass. Apply through your local council.

I’m worried about someone’s ability to drive

If you are worried about the safety of someone’s driving, it can be a tricky subject to talk about. But it’s vital to make them aware of your concerns, not just for their safety, but for the safety of others on the road.

If a person has been driving for many years it can be hard to suddenly stop, and it can change the way they see themselves. So they may need support and guidance from family, friends and professionals.

Sometimes survivors find it difficult to recognise the effects of the event. It can also affect your judgement and, in rare cases, someone can be unaware they have a disability. This is called anosognosia.

Family members and professionals may need to remind them that they can no longer drive because of the potential risk to themselves and others. You could read this together and talk about the other ways of getting around, and plan some of the journeys they might want to make using alternative types of transport.

If you feel that the person is not safe to drive and they refuse to stop driving, you can write to the DLVA in confidence online. 

Driving again after a cardiac arrest

If you are able to return to driving, the choice of when and how to do it is a personal one. 

If you have an occupational therapist, talk to them about it. They can tailor your therapy to help prepare you to return to driving. An automatic car can be easier to drive than a manual.

Before you start driving again, you may find it helpful to have a few refresher lessons with a qualified driving instructor. You can find driving instructors in your area by looking in your local phonebook or on the internet. Check that they are registered with the Driving Standards Agency (DSA). Mobility centres can also provide advice about returning to driving.

Insurance
Before you start driving again you must tell your insurance company about your cardiac arrest and any medical conditions you have. If you don’t do this, it might invalidate your insurance. Insurance companies have their own processes, so talk to yours to find out more. Check your policy carefully. They might want confirmation that you are safe to drive.

Having a medical condition can make insurance more expensive. Try shopping around for a competitive quote, or look for a specialist insurance provider when you need to renew.