Reducing your risk of complications

You can reduce the risk of certain complications by following your treatment plan and:

  • 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.
  • 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).  
  • Telling all members of your care team if you have any allergies 

How do I prepare for my defibrillator implant? 

You are an important member of your own healthcare team. The steps you take before surgery can improve your comfort and outcome. 

You can prepare for a defibrillator implant by:

  • Answering all questions about your medical history and medications. This includes prescriptions, 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 all instructions about eating and drinking before a defibrillator implant
  • Getting preoperative testing as directed. Testing varies depending on your age, health, and specific procedure. Preoperative testing may include a chest X-ray, EKG (electrocardiogram), blood tests, and other tests as needed.
  • Losing excess weight before the surgery through a healthy diet and exercise plan
  • Stopping smoking as soon as possible. Even quitting for just a few days can be beneficial and help the healing process.
  • Taking or stopping medications exactly as directed. 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. Contact your doctor with concerns and questions before a defibrillator implant and between appointments.

It is also a good idea to bring a list of questions to your preoperative 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 can I go home?
  • What restrictions will I have after the surgery? When can I 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?
  • How do I take my medications? 
  • How will you treat my pain?
  • When should I follow up with you?
  • How should I contact you? 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. 

How long will it take to recover?

You will stay in the recovery room after surgery until you are alert, breathing effectively, and your vital signs are stable. A hospital stay of one to two days may be required. This allows your care team to monitor your heart rhythm and make sure that your defibrillator is working properly. You will go home with instructions about how to care for your defibrillator.

Recovery after surgery is a gradual process. Recovery time varies depending on the procedure, your general health, age, and other factors. Your doctor may ask you to avoid strenuous activities or lifting anything over 20 pounds for about a month after surgery. Most people return to light to moderate activities within a few days.