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Discharge Instructions for Implantable Cardioverter-Defibrillator (ICD)

You had a procedure to insert an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD). Once inside your body, an ICD monitors your heart rhythm (the speed and pattern of your heartbeat). If your rhythm becomes too fast, it can be deadly. The ICD helps to correct a too-fast rhythm by sending out an electrical shock. Most ICDs can also treat a heart beat that is too slow by monitoring your heart rate and sending out electrical signals as needed. As you recover, follow the instructions below. Also follow any other directions you’re given by your healthcare provider.


  • Don’t drive until your doctor says it’s OK. It's recommended that you avoid driving for 6 months after a defibrillator is implanted or if the device fires. The life threatening heart rhythms these devices treat can cause you to lose consciousness, which would be very dangerous if you are driving.

  • Limit your activity as instructed.

  • Ask your provider if you have any bathing restrictions.

  • If you are fitted with an arm sling, keep your arm in the sling for as long as your doctor tells you to. However, make sure that your arm is not completely immobilized for more than a week. This can lead to a stiff shoulder.

  • Don't raise your arm on the incision side above shoulder level or stretch the arm behind your back for as long as your doctor recommends. This gives the device lead wires time to attach securely inside your heart.

  • Ask your doctor when you can expect to return to work and if you will have any restrictions in your work duties for any period of time. If you have a job that requires a commercial driver's license, you must be aware that having an ICD implanted is a restriction for this type of license.

Other precautions

  • For 7 days after implantation of your device, take your temperature and check your incision for signs of infection (redness, swelling, drainage, or warmth) each day.

  • Take your medicines exactly as directed. Don’t skip doses or stop medicines without discussing this first with your doctor. Tell your doctor if you are having any new symptoms that might be a side effect.

  • Carry an ID card that contains information about your ICD. You should have been given a temporary ID card with information about your ICD on it. You will get a permanent one in 4 to 6 weeks. Carry this card with you. You can show this card if your ICD sets off a metal detector. You should also show it to avoid screening with a hand-held security wand.

  • Before you have any treatment, tell all healthcare providers (including your dentist) that you have an ICD.

  • Keep your cell phone away from your ICD. Don’t carry your phone in your shirt pocket on the side of your device, even when it’s turned off.

  • Stay away from strong magnets. Examples are those used in MRIs or in hand-held security wands. Ask your doctor if your ICD is MRI compatible.

  • Stay away from strong electrical fields. Examples are those made by radio transmitting towers, “ham” radios, and heavy-duty electrical equipment.

  • Don't lean over the open hood of a running car. A running engine creates an electrical field. Other than your car, most items around the house, such as your microwave, are perfectly safe. Most common yard work equipment, such as your lawn mower, are safe. If you use commercial-grade tools, such as an arc welder, check with your doctor for recommendations. 

  • Make regular appointments with your doctor. He or she will check the device to make sure it continues to work properly.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your healthcare provider, or as advised.

Ask your doctor about remote monitoring of your ICD. Your ICD may have a remote monitoring system that can transmit information over the phone or internet to your doctor.

If you are not able to have your device monitored remotely, you will have periodic checkups in your cardiologist's office to check the function and battery life of your ICD. On average, plan to have your device checked every 6 months. The generator battery can last as long as 8 to10 years.

When to call your healthcare provider

Call your healthcare provider right away if you have any of these:

  • A “shock” sensation from your ICD. This may feel like being kicked in the chest. 

  • Fever above 100.4°F (38°C), or as directed by your healthcare provider

  • Signs of infection at your incision site (redness, swelling, drainage, or warmth)

  • Twitching in your chest or abdominal muscles

  • Increased pain around your ICD

  • Bleeding at the incision site

  • Arm swelling on the side of the incision

  • Uncontrolled hiccups

Online Medical Reviewer: Anne Clayton APRN
Online Medical Reviewer: Lu Cunningham
Online Medical Reviewer: Steven Kang MD
Date Last Reviewed: 5/1/2019
© 2000-2021 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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