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Implantable cardioverter defibrillator

Patient information A-Z

Post implant ward K2

Who is the leaflet for? What is its aim?

This leaflet is for patients who have had an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) fitted. It summarises what to expect after the implant and provides useful information about living with an ICD.

Immediately after your implant

It is common to feel sore and stiff around the ICD site for up to one month.

You should not move the arm on your implant side at all for the first 48 hours or above chest height for two to three weeks.

If at all possible, it is advisable not to undertake any heavy lifting or shopping for up to four weeks.

The ICD site should be kept dry for seven days after the implant. Take the dressing off, if the site looks healthy with no signs infection there is no need to contact the department. However if you are unsure please make an appointment to see your GP Practice nurse.

When to contact the cardiac rhythm management (CRM) team

  • If you notice redness, irritation, swelling or oozing around your ICD site.
  • If you have twitching in your shoulder or ICD site.
  • If you have persistent hiccups.
  • If your ICD gives you a shock (see FAQ: what should I do if I receive a shock)
  • If you have a blackout or loss of consciousness

Follow-up of your ICD

You will be seen in the cardiac device clinic for a check-up approximately five weeks after your implant. This appointment will be provided separately.

At your first check you will be offered a home monitor, and informed whether your next check will be performed in clinic or via the home monitor.

Frequently asked questions

What should I do if I receive a shock?

If you have a shock and feel well afterwards, phone the department for an appointment.

If you feel unwell or have repeated shocks (two or more within 24 hours) then phone 999 for an emergency ambulance.

Am I able to drive?

DVLA guidelines vary depending on why you have had the ICD implanted. This will be discussed with you by the consultant cardiologist. You must tell the DVLA that you have had an ICD fitted.

Am I able to travel?

We would advise you not to travel until you have your first check at 5 week.

If you travel abroad you are advised to inform airport security that you have an ICD. Show them your ICD identification (ID) card and they will perform a manual search.

Are there any household appliances I shouldn’t use?

Well maintained microwave ovens and most other home electrical appliances should have no effect on your ICD. It is advisable to check information / supplier for each appliance.

If you have an induction hob you need to stay at least 24 inches away from it.

If you use a “walk about” or mobile telephone, this should be kept 15cm (6 inches) away from your ICD.

Any items containing a magnet should be avoided.

Can I still enjoy sport and leisure activity?

Most sports do not affect your ICD although you should wait at least 5 weeks before starting any sporting activity. Contact sports and SCUBA diving should be avoided.

Is there anything else I need to know?

Most shops have anti theft devices which could be activated by your ICD. If this happens, present your ICD ID card. These devices won’t interfere with your ICD if you walk through them, but do not linger around them. Radio frequency toys are safe to use as long as the antennae is six inches away from your ICD site. Arc welding equipment or any heavy industrial machinery may affect your ICD function and should be avoided.

Do not lean over your car engine while it is running as the alternator could affect your ICD.

If you feel unwell after undertaking any of the activities described in this leaflet or any other activity you are advised to contact the CRM team.

Does anyone else need to know about my ICD?

If you visit a health professional who requires you to have any further investigations, please ensure that he / she is aware that you have an ICD.

If you need an MRI scan please contact the CRM team for advice.

You must inform your physician and CRM team if you are told that you require radiation therapy as we will need to see you more frequently.

If you need an operation you must tell the Surgeon that you have an ICD fitted.

Pain control machines such as microtens should, if possible, be avoided. If required, please contact the CRM team for advice.

Contacts and further information

This booklet is not exhaustive, but is meant as a basis for discussion.

If you require any further advice please contact the CRM team on 01223 256233 (Monday to Friday, 08:30 - 17:00)

Email CRM team.

We are smoke-free

Smoking is not allowed anywhere on the hospital campus. For advice and support in quitting, contact your GP or the free NHS stop smoking helpline on 0800 169 0 169.

Other formats

Help accessing this information in other formats is available. To find out more about the services we provide, please visit our patient information help page (see link below) or telephone 01223 256998.

Contact us

Cambridge University Hospitals
NHS Foundation Trust
Hills Road, Cambridge

Telephone +44 (0)1223 245151