Surgical Successes: ICD Implant Procedure

Did you know the heart is the most active muscle in the body because it never stops working? However due to age, health or genetics, mechanical assistance may be needed to help keep the heart pumping correctly. One of those devices is known as an internal cardioverter defibrillator (ICD). It’s a mechanical implant designed to help the heart maintain a normal rhythm and the cardiologists at Eskenazi Health utilize a specific implant procedure to connect the ICD to the heart.

According to Julie Haschel, electrophysiology nurse coordinator at Eskenazi Health, an ICD shares some similarities to the more familiar pacemaker. A pacemaker helps maintain a proper heart rate and is primarily used to help quicken a slow heart rate. An ICD differs because it prevents the heart from beating too fast or too slow.

Since it performs a crucial and life-saving task, it would be easy to assume that the process of placing the device inside the body would be complex and time consuming and recovery would cause undue hardship on the patient. Haschel notes that it is almost the opposite. The ICD was designed to be easily and efficiently placed into the body through a minimally invasive procedure that is performed often by the expert staff in the Eskenazi Health Cardiology department and only takes about one to three hours to complete.

The procedure begins with a small incision made under the clavicle, more commonly referred to as the collar bone, and up to three leads are placed. A lead is a sheathed wire that runs through an artery and into the heart itself. The leads are what deliver the small electrical shock from the ICD to the heart to help it pump correctly. Once the leads are correctly placed, the ICD is positioned under the skin by the collarbone and tied off to the muscle, and the incision is sewn up.

Recovery from an ICD implant procedure is simple and easy to follow. Through the first four weeks, a patient has to limit arm motion to protect the leads and allow them and the ICD to settle into the body. Afterwards, the patient will have almost no more limitations but Haschel does warn people to not participate in contact sports and use caution when engaging in activities that have jarring movements, like riding a rollercoaster.

Haschel reports that the average ICD has a service life of eight to twelve years. She does note they can break or malfunction; however, the procedure used to replace them is the same as the one to initially insert it. Modern ICDs can also send monitoring reports to a device given to the patient and the cardiology team, alerting them to any changes it detects. This allows for more responsive follow up care and an overall better patient experience.

To learn more about ICDs or to see if you need to have one, please set an appointment with your cardiologist. If you or someone you know needs to see a cardiologist or primary care physician, please call 317.880.000 or visit

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