CardioSpecialists Group, Ltd.
About Your Defibrillator Implant
What Is a Defibrillator Implant?
Your doctor might recommend a defibrillator implant if your heart rate is too fast or abnormal. The job of a defibrillator implant is to monitor and regulate your heart rate. Sometimes, your heart might begin beating so quickly that it becomes inefficient. When this happens, the defibrillator detects it, and sends an electric shock to the heart to reset it back to a normal rhythm. After having a defibrillator implant, you will be able to live a full, normal life. You will have your defibrillator implant monitored by your doctor when you visit, and medications to regulate your heart might also be prescribed.
Defibrillator implants are built similarly to pacemakers with a generator, electrodes, and leads. The electrodes are attached to the ventricles of the heart and attached to the generator with the leads. The generator can be programmed by your doctor to treat your particular condition.
Pictured above is defibrillator implant.
How Is the Procedure Performed?
A minor surgery is required to implant a defibrillator. The procedure will likely take place in an operating room. There you will be asked to change into a hospital gown. During the procedure your vital signs (heart rate and blood pressure) will be monitored. The area where the incision will be made will be cleaned, shaved, and a local anesthetic applied. One tiny incision just below your collarbone will be made. A second cut will be made in the vein below your collarbone. In this cut, the leads with the electrodes at the ends will be fed through the vein and into the chambers of your heart. The other end of the leads will be attached to the generator which will be implanted into the first incision near the collarbone. The incisions will be closed and you will be taken to recovery.
After the Procedure
You will have an x-ray and electrocardiogram (EKG) to ensure that your defibrillator implant was attached in the proper place. The generator will be programmed by your doctor, and it might be tested. In most instances, you will have to stay at the hospital for a day or two. This will allow your physician to monitor you for any side effects. A hard lump at the incision site is normal and this should fade with time.
You will need to avoid strenuous exercise and heavy lifting for about four weeks until the electrodes become more permanently attached to your heart. You will also receive a card from your doctor about the type of defibrillator implant you have. This will need to be carried with you at all times.
Is It Safe?
If your physician has decided that you will benefit from a defibrillator implant, he has likely determined that the positive effects outweigh the negative consequences. As with any surgical procedure, there are risks, but complications are rare, occurring only in about 1 percent of patients with defibrillator implants. Discuss any concerns you might have with your doctor and if you are at an increased risk for complications. If you experience any of the following, discuss it with your physician: bruising, fainting, pus from the incision, signs of infection, chest pain, shortness of breath, palpitations, or a return of the same symptoms you had before the implant.