Can bioimpedance body composition analysis interfere with implanted cardiac devices like pacemakers or defibrillators?

Bioimpedance analysis (BIA) is a commonly used method to estimate body composition by sending a low-level electrical current through the body. Manufacturers have traditionally recommended that patients with implanted cardiac devices like pacemakers, implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs), or cardiac resynchronisation therapy devices (CRT-Ds) avoid BIA due to concerns about potential interference.

However, a small study published in 2012 evaluated 20 patients with heart failure who had either an ICD or CRT-D device implanted. The researchers performed BIA on these patients while monitoring their devices in real time. They found no evidence of any interference from the BIA, including no telemetry disruption, no oversensing on the device leads, and no symptoms experienced by the patients.

While this study suggests BIA may be safe in patients with certain cardiac implants, the researchers noted that further confirmatory studies with larger patient groups are still needed. As always, it’s best to consult your doctor or cardiac electrophysiologist before undergoing any procedures or tests if you have an implanted cardiac device.

If you have an ICD and receive a brief electric shock from UK mains (240v), and have no visible injuries what is the protocol and possible outcome to the ICD/lead?

There is theoretically a risk of damage to the ICD/lead from an electric shock from UK mains buts it’s extremely unlikely and it would be classed as a very low risk. 

This is because the current tends not to pass through the ICD/lead but passes through the body to the ground using the shortest and quickest route e.g. hand, up the arm, down the torso, and out through the leg. The majority of devices also have circuitry built in to protect them against electrical surges. 

The advice would be to go to the hospital if a person was feeling unwell, otherwise, it would be recommended that a person contact their local device clinic and request a device check which could be performed as a remote transmission. This would pick up on any rare issues caused and provide reassurance.

How do doctors decide if I am fit to drive?

Doctors use the following guidelines from the DVLA to help them assess whether someone is medically fit to drive.

DVLA Guidelines for assessing fitness to drive for medical professionals

How does an AED work?

A computer inside the AED analyzes the victim’s heart rhythm. The device determines whether a shock is needed. Some devices shock the victim automatically if a shock is needed. Other devices require that the operator press a button to deliver the shock. The shock is delivered through pads applied to the victim’s bare chest. The shock stuns the heart, stopping abnormal heart activity and allowing a normal heart rhythm to resume.

What household items have a special consideration to use if I have an ICD?

Maintain at least the recommended distance between the item and your heart device:

12-Inch Distance

Car/Motorcycle – from components of ignition system
Electric Fence
Electric Pet Containment Fence – from buried wire and indoor antenna
Transformer Box (green box in yard)

2-Foot Distance

Beach Comber Metal Detector – from search head
Induction Cooktop Stove

Not Recommended

Ab Stimulator
Electronic Body Fat Scale
Magnetic Mattress Pad/Pillow

What household items have a minimal risk if I have an ICD

Maintain at least a 6-inch distance between the item and your heart device:

Electric Grocery Cart/Golf Cart – from motor
Electric Kitchen Appliances – hand-held (electric mixer or knife)
Electric Shaver – corded
Electric Toothbrush Charging Base
Exercise Bike – from magnet in wheel
Hair Dryer – hand-held
Hand-held Back Massager
Magnetic Therapy Products
Radio-Controlled Items – from antenna
Sewing Machine/Serger – from motor
Small Magnet (household magnet)
Tattoo Machine
Treadmill – from motor
Ultrasonic Pest Controller
Vacuum Cleaner – from motor

What household items can I use if I have an ICD?

If the item is used as intended and in good working condition, there is no known risk:

Battery Charger – for household batteries
Casino Slot Machine
CD/DVD/VHS Player or Recorder
Curling Iron
Electric Blanket
Electric Guitar
Electric Toothbrush
Electronic Weight Scale
Garage Door Opener
Hair Straightener
Heating Pad
Hot Tub
Ionized Air Filter
Kitchen Appliances – small and large (blender, can opener, refrigerator, stove, toaster)
Low Voltage Residential Power Lines
Massage Chair/Pad
Medical Alert Necklace
Microwave Oven
Remote Control (CD, DVD Player, TV, VHS)
Salon Hair Dryer
Shaver/Trimmer – battery powered
Tanning Bed

Why do I need to avoid using tools like a chainsaw?

The electromagnetic energy generated by a chainsaw is similar to other electric and liquid fuel-powered tools. If electromagnetic interference occurs with your heart device and you experience symptoms such as becoming dizzy or lightheaded, a running chainsaw may present a higher risk of injury to you than other power tools.

Can I use a chainsaw? 

Yes, but extreme caution should be excised at all times.

Follow the safety precautions below to minimize the risk of interfering with your heart device while using a chainsaw.

  • Maintain a 6-inch distance between the motor of an electric chainsaw and your heart device.
  • Ensure the equipment is properly grounded.
  • Maintain a 12-inch distance between the components of the ignition system of a liquid fuel-powered chainsaw and your heart device. Also, it is better to use one that is built with the spark plug located away from the handgrips.
  • Immediately stop cutting and turn off your chainsaw if you start feeling lightheaded, dizzy, or you believe your implantable defibrillator has delivered a shock
  • Do not work on the engine while it is running
  • Do not touch the coil, distributor, or spark plug cables of a running engine
Category: Electromagnetic interference

Can I use a welder? 

It is recommended you avoid using welding currents above 160 amps. Follow the safety precautions below to minimize the risk of interfering with your heart device while welding with currents under 160 amps.

Welding Safety Precautions

Limit welding to currents less than 160 amps
Work in a dry area with dry gloves and shoes
Maintain a 2-foot (60cm) distance between the welding arc and heart device
Keep the welding cables close together and as far away as possible from your heart device. Place the welding unit approximately 5 feet from the work area.
Connect the ground clamp to the metal as close to the point of welding as possible. Arrange the work so the handle and rod will not contact the metal being welded if they are accidentally dropped.
Wait several seconds between attempts when having difficulty starting a weld
Work in an area that offers firm footing and plenty of room for movement
Work with an informed person who understands these suggestions
Immediately stop welding and step away from the area if you start feeling lightheaded, dizzy, or you believe your implantable defibrillator has delivered a shock

Since welding equipment may temporarily affect the normal operation of your heart device, any decision you make to use this equipment should be made in consultation with your heart doctor. Your doctor can advise you as to the degree of risk these responses pose for your medical condition.

Aprons or vests will not effectively shield your pacemaker or implantable defibrillator from the electromagnetic energy generated by welding equipment.

I read in my patient manual that I should avoid welding. Why? 

Unlike most other household power tools, welding with currents above 160 amps may have a higher tendency to temporarily affect the normal function of your pacemaker or implantable defibrillator.

Do magnets affect pacemakers and implantable defibrillators?

Even though most electromagnetic fields in the home environment will rarely affect the function of a pacemaker or implantable defibrillator, it is recommended you keep any item containing magnets away (at least 6 inches/15 centimeters) from your pacemaker or implantable defibrillator.

The reason for this is because there is a small magnetically activated switch built into the electronics of pacemakers and implantable defibrillators. This internal switch is designed to close when a magnet of enough strength is placed over it.

When the internal switch is closed in the pacemaker, the pacemaker paces the heart at a continuous pre-set rate (which could be different than the rate your doctor programmed).

When the internal switch is closed in an implantable defibrillator, it prevents it from delivering treatment therapies.

You may not always know if an item has a magnet in it. However, if you use household items as they are intended, and they are properly maintained, they should have no effect on your heart device. This includes microwaves, kitchen appliances, cordless phones, radios, televisions, video games, CD players, hair dryers, electric shavers, electric toothbrushes, electric blankets, leaf blowers, lawn mowers, garage door openers, computers, and small shop tools.

If you mistakenly place a magnet too close to your heart device, simply move the item away.

Removing the magnet returns the pacemaker or implantable defibrillator back to its previous, normal programming.

The use of magnetic mattress pads and pillows is not recommended since it would be difficult to keep a 6-inch (15 centimeter) separation from your heart device.

Category: Treatment

Can I go through security systems such as those found in airports?

Given the short duration of security screening, it is unlikely that your heart device will be affected by metal detectors (walk-through archways and hand-held wands) or full-body imaging scanners (also called millimetre wave scanners and 3D imaging scanners) such as those found in airports, large venues and courthouses.

The metal case of your heart device could set off a metal detector. To minimize the risk of temporary interference with your heart device while going through the security screening process, avoid touching metal surfaces around any screening equipment. Do not stop or linger in a walk-through archway; simply walk through the archway at a normal pace.

If a hand-held wand is used, ask the security operator not to hold it over your heart device and not to wave it back and forth over your heart device. You may also request a hand search as an alternative. If you have concerns about these security screening methods, show your device ID card, request an alternative screening, and then follow the instructions of the security personnel.

Can I go through store anti-theft detectors? 

Yes. Anti-theft detectors in stores and libraries generate electromagnetic fields that can “sense” embedded “tags” on merchandise. It may be possible, under unique circumstances, for these fields to temporarily affect the operation of your heart device. Significant effects from interference are unlikely if you pass “normally” through the detectors. It is recommended that you:

Be aware of anti-theft detectors
Walk through at a “normal” walking speed
Don’t linger close to the detection system equipment. If you are near an anti-theft system and feel symptoms, promptly move away from the equipment. Your heart device will resume its previous state of operation when you move away from the equipment.

Can an MRI scan affect my ICD?

Prior to any scan, your doctor should determine whether there is an effect on your heart device.

See our MRI Compatibility page for more information.

Category: Treatment

What if my doctor strongly recommends an MRI scan?

Your doctor should discuss all potential benefits and risks of an MRI scan with you. Present your ID card to the doctor recommending the MRI scan. If needed, your doctor can seek more information from the manufacturer of your ICD.

What if my device is not approved for use in the MRI environment? 

You should speak with your doctor regarding this situation.

Many modern ICDs and leads are compatible with MRI scanners and many are retrospectively approved.

See our MRI Compatibility page for more information.

Is my heart device MRI compatible? 

Many modern devices and leads are now MRI compatible but older ones are often not.

You can get more information about how to check by going to our MRI Compatibility page.

What activities can I resume after getting an ICD?

Generally, your device will not keep you from most activities and hobbies (e.g., bowling, golfing, playing tennis, gardening, fishing, etc.).

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 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.

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.

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.

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?

Not all ICDs can vibrate and when they do it is usually a patient alert feature.

You can find out more about alerts on our ICD Sounds and Alerts page.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Category: Shock

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.

Category: Shock

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.

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.

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.

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.

What can I do about my car seatbelt rubbing on my ICD?

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.

Category: Electromagnetic interference

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

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 visits and/or with remote monitoring systems.

Some ICDs emit an alert when the time is for a change. See our ICD sounds and alerts page for more information

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.

Category: Driving

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.

Category: Electromagnetic interference

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.

Category: Electromagnetic interference

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.

Category: Electromagnetic interference

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.

Category: Medications

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.

Category: Driving

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.

Category: Electromagnetic interference

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 still use a remote monitor if I do not have a landline?

Yes, there are different versions of remote monitors available that do not require a landline connection, using different wireless technologies.

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.

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.)

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.

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.

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.

Category: Electromagnetic interference

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.

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.

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.

Can I use a microwave?

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

Can I drive after getting an ICD?

The decision to drive after getting an ICD depends on your medical condition and the laws in your area. Your doctor will look at your electrophysiology (EP) tests, how you’re responding to the ICD and its therapies, and any other medications you take. The one exception that definitely requires a conversation with your doctor is being a commercial driver like a bus driver or truck driver.

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 my ICD be checked over the phone?

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

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.

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.

What kind of battery do ICDs use?

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

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..

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.

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 use a chain saw?

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

If I have an ICD can I have sex?

Intimacy is a normal part of life. We understand patients resume sexual activity when they feel comfortable. However, if you have a question, it may be helpful to have a conversation with your doctor.
If in doubt about an activity, always discuss it with your doctor or nurse.

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.

Can I use an electric blanket?

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

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.

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.

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 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.

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.

Category: Driving

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.

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