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Defibrillator Implantation

Also known as internal cardiac defibrillator implantation, or ICD, a defibrillator is a small device that treats abnormal heart rhythms called arrhythmias. Most often, a cardiac defibrillator treats fast arrhythmias in the heart’s lower chambers (the ventricles). Cardiac defibrillator implantation today is minimally invasive surgery with the use of cardiac catheterization.

How does a cardiac defibrillator treat my heart?

Arrhythmias result from a problem in your heart’s electrical system. Electrical signals follow a certain pathway through the heart and it is the movement of these signals that causes your heart to contract. During a fast arrhythmia, too many electrical signals are moving through your heart and may even be traveling down the wrong pathways. The result: the heart cannot pump enough blood out to your body. The defibrillator can stop a fast arrhythmia or sudden cardiac arrest, while also helping your heart to resume a normal heartbeat.

How does the defibrillator work once it’s implanted?

A defibrillator has two parts that play a role in treatment. It has thin leads, which are insulated wires that carry electrical signals back and forth between the defibrillator and your heart. The leads can sense when your heart is beating too rapidly and needs treatment. The defibrillator device itself, also called a pulse generator, is quite small, fitting easily in the palm of your hand. It contains computerized parts that run on a battery. The defibrillator treats your heart by sending electrical energy to your heart through the leads. The defibrillator system delivers treatment based on what it senses in your heart, even if you don’t feel any symptoms.