Defibrillator Implant


Sarah Lewis, PharmD

What is a defibrillator implant?

A defibrillator implant is the surgical placement of an electrical device called an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) in your chest or belly. An ICD treats life-threatening abnormal heartbeats (arrhythmias). Arrhythmias can prevent your heart from pumping a sufficient amount of blood to your brain and body. A defibrillator implant uses electrical shocks to restore a normal heartbeat.

Your heart is a muscle that works like a pump. It has four chambers, two upper chambers (atria) and two lower chambers (ventricles). Like all pumps, your heart requires a source of energy to function. Your heart's pumping energy comes from a built-in electrical conduction system.

Your heart's four chambers must pump in harmony with one another to make a normal heartbeat. Electrical signals travel through the chambers to produce the heartbeat. Any malfunction in these signals can make your heart beat too quickly, too slowly, or at an uneven rate. This causes an arrhythmia.

A defibrillator implant is only one method used to treat abnormal heartbeats. Discuss all of your treatment options with your doctor or healthcare provider to understand which options are right for you. 

Types of defibrillator implants

An ICD has two main parts. The first part is the wires with electrodes that connect your heart to the ICD. These wires continually monitor your heart rhythm. They send the information to the second part of an ICD, the pulse generator. 

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