FAQ

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.

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 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.