- Blood clots or air bubbles in the vein
- Collapsed lung
- Defibrillator malfunction requiring your doctor to reprogram it or replace it
- Heart or nerve damage
- Punctured heart or lung
- Tearing an artery or vein
- Unnecessary electrical pulses (impulses), which occur when the defibrillator sends pulses that are not needed. This can damage your heart, cause irregular heart rhythms and pain, and be emotionally upsetting. It is the most common complication of a defibrillator implant.
Reducing your risk of complications
You can reduce the risk of certain complications by:
- Avoiding close or prolonged exposure to electrical devices or devices that have a strong magnetic field. Your doctor will give you specific instructions about these devices.
- Ensuring that all members of your care team are aware of any allergies you have
- Following activity, dietary and lifestyle restrictions and recommendations before surgery and during and after recovery
- Notifying your doctor immediately of any concerns, such as bleeding, fever, increase in pain, or wound redness, swelling or drainage
- Taking your medications exactly as directed. Some medications reduce the risk of unnecessary pulses (impulses).
How do I prepare for my defibrillator implant?
You are a very important member of your own healthcare team. The steps you take before surgery can improve your outcome after the procedure. You can best prepare yourself for a defibrillator implant by:
- Answering all questions about your medical history and medications you take. This includes prescribed medications, over-the-counter drugs, herbal treatments, and vitamins. It is a good idea to carry a current list of your medical conditions, medications, and allergies at all times.
- Arranging a ride home from the hospital. You will not be able to drive for some time after a defibrillator implant. The time will vary depending on several factors. Your doctor will tell you when you are able to drive again.
- Following exactly any instructions about eating and drinking before a defibrillator implant
- Getting pre-operative testing as directed. Testing varies depending on your age, health, and specific procedure. Pre-operative testing may include a chest X-ray, electrocardiography (ECG), blood tests, and other tests as needed.
- If you are overweight, talk to your doctor about losing weight before the surgery through a healthy diet and exercise plan.
- Stop smoking as soon as possible. Even quitting for a just few days can be helpful.
- Taking or stopping medications exactly as directed. For a defibrillator implant, this may include not taking aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), and blood thinners.
Questions to ask your doctor
Facing surgery can be stressful. It is common for patients to forget some of their questions during a brief doctor’s office visit. You may also think of other questions after your appointment. You should contact your doctor when questions come up before the procedure and between appointments. It is also a good idea to bring a list of questions to your pre-operative appointments. Questions can include:
- Why do I need a defibrillator implant? Are there any other options for treating my condition?
- Which type of defibrillator implant will I need?
- How long will the surgery take? When will I be able to go home?
- What restrictions will I have after the surgery? When can I expect to return to work and other activities?
- What kinds of electrical devices should I avoid? What kinds of medical testing should I avoid?
- What kind of assistance will I need at home?
- What medications will I need before and after the surgery?
- How will you manage my pain?
- How should I contact you? When should I see you in follow-up? Ask for numbers to call during and after regular hours.
What can I expect after my defibrillator implant?
Knowing what to expect can help make your road to recovery after a defibrillator implant as smooth as possible.
In this article
© Copyright 2012 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. For specific medical advice, diagnoses and treatment, consult your doctor.