ICD Sounds and Alerts

Is your ICD beeping? Did you even know that it makes sounds and do you know what the ICD sounds mean?  Just having an ICD may already of put you in an anxious state so knowing what sounds you may hear is well worth knowing so you don’t panic if you should ever hear them.

Many SCA survivors receive an Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (and/or pacemaker) shortly after their event and it can all be a bit of a blur. You will of been lucky if you got a full run through of the device and it’s feature.  If you didn’t you can always read the instruction guide, but it won’t be able to show you the inbuilt alerting features aka patient notifiers.  Not all devices have notifiers and if yours does, ask if you can experience them at your next checkup.

In general use your ICD will be silent, but in certain situations it may make sounds or vibrations to alert you of conditions that you need to be aware of.  ICD sounds can vary widely depending on the manufacturer, the device and even the individual programming.  Some devices make sounds (generally beeps), some just vibrate, some do both and some don’t make any at all!

If you have a St Jude device you can find out more about their patient notifiers on their website.

Reasons for ICD’s to  Alert

ICD sounds made by a device will vary depending on the manufacturer and device type, but there are common reasons and these are listed below:

  1. Your battery life is low
  2. There is a fault with the device or lead(s)
  3. You have received a therapeutic shock
  4. There is magnetic field disabling or interfering with the device
  5. The device has been unable to communicate with your home monitor for longer than the recommended time (2 weeks?)

Low Battery

When the device battery starts to come towards the end of its life it will periodically emit a warning sound.  The ICD sound is usually at the same time of day and typically 6 months before depletion.

Device or Lead fault

If your device has a fault or there is something wrong with a lead an alert will also be emitted.

If either of the situations above arise you should contact your ICD clinic as soon as possible so that they may investigate the alert further and any remediable action taken.

Therapeutic Shock

If you have received a therapeutic shock and your device is beeping then you should contact your ICD clinic immediately.  Not all devices beep after a shock and not all patients need to see a Doctor after receiving a shock, but if you feel unwell or are anxious it is always worth contacting your ICD clinic and they will be able give you further information i.e. whether shock was appropriate or not.

It is always worth planning for a shock so you and your family know what to do should it happen. Check out our ICD Shocks page to find out more.

Magnetic Field

If you get an alarm because of a temporary situation i.e. you are in a magnetic field you should try to rectify the situation as quickly as possible by moving away from the source.  You should be aware that if the ICD sound continues your device may be disabled and may not activate should you require it.  This is a potentially dangerous situation to be in, but you should not panic – the likelihood of you needing your device to activate at that precise moment is extremely low.  However, you should attempt to remedy the situation as quickly as possible and if the alarm continues after moving away from the triggering source, then you should contact your ICD clinic as soon as possible.

ICD/Home Monitor Communication Failure

If you have a home monitor and the ICD has been unable to communicate with it for a prolonged period of time you may receive an alarm.  For short holidays and breaks the general advice is for people not to take their home monitor with them, but if you are away for a prolonged period it would be worth checking with your ICD clinic first so that you are not alarmed unnecessarily.

Inside Information

Doug Rachac is an SCA survivor and ICD owner, but also a former Medtronic employee with good experience on implantable devices.  He’s produced a couple of excellent videos in which he talks about devices and their features.

This about how ICD’s interact with magnets and security checkpoints.

The second about the tones made by Medtronic devices…

Lastly one on leads

The Sounds

It seems the manufacturers of ICD’s aren’t that forthcoming with what sounds their devices make, but we have found a number of recordings and other articles that you may find of interest.

Please be-aware that these are just examples of sounds you may hear from your device and they may be different from your actual one.  It’s also worth noting these alerts and sounds can be programmed for each individual and varies from clinic to clinic and patient to patient depending on experience, circumstances and operational factors.  If you want to know exactly what your ICD sounds like, ask for a demonstration the next time you visit your ICD clinic.

Medtronic ICD sounds

Boston Scientific ICS sounds

Unknown Manufacturer ICD sounds

ICD Sounds on other websites

Medtronic official website

Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation in the US has a recording of a battery warning for an unknown device type

Manufacturer Information

Link to Abbott (formerly St Judes) patient notifier information
Abbott (formerly St Judes) patient notifier information

Articles relating to audible ICD alerts

Patient Alerting Features in Implantable Defibrillators

Basic information on patient notifiers from St Jude

Is your ICD beeping?