Home Care after Implanted Cardioverter Defibrillator (ICD) Placement
This handout will help you learn how to care
for yourself after an ICD has been placed. A
nurse will review this with you before you
What is an ICD?
An ICD is a small electronic device that
monitors your heartbeat at all times. It is
placed under your skin and attached to your
heart with small wires. An ICD sends
electric impulses to your heart if an unsafe
rhythm is noted. Every defibrillator can also
work as a pacemaker if needed. This will
help pace your heart in order to keep a
healthy heart rate. It senses if it is beating
too slowly or pausing too long between
heart beats. If it senses a slow rate or a
pause that is too long, it will send electrical
impulses to keep your heart rate steady.
Details about Your ICD
Date your ICD was placed:__________
by Dr. __________________________.
Your defibrillator shock rate is
The company that made your ICD is
You will need a clinic visit 2-3 weeks after
your ICD is placed. The site will be checked
to see how you are healing. The ICD will
also be checked. This is also called
Your follow-up visit is scheduled:
Your ICD will be checked every 3 months.
In some cases, we may be able to alternate
clinic visits with home remote checks. We
will discuss this further at your first
If DermaBond “Clear Glue” was applied to
your incision, you may shower the day after
If a dressing was applied over your incision:
ξ Leave the current bandage on
ξ Site should be kept clean and dry (no
showering) for _____ days following
the procedure. When you do shower,
let the soap and water run down the
ξ Do not scrub or rub the site.
ξ Gently clean the site with soap and
water. Pat dry and leave open to air.
ξ The steri strips (the thin pieces of
tape over the incision) hold the skin
together as it heals. These should be
left in place until they fall off on
their own or the nurse will remove
them at your first visit.
Do not use any lotions or ointments
over the incisions. As the site heals,
you may feel itching, this is normal.
Do not scratch or rub the site.
Look at the site daily for any signs of
ξ Warmth over the site
ξ Increased tenderness
ξ Fever (101°F or greater)
If you notice any of the above, you will need
to call the device clinic the same day at
If you have pain at the site, you may take
any mild pain reliever such as
acetaminophen (Tylenol®) or ibuprofen
(Motrin®) that has worked for you in the
For 2 months, on the side your device was
ξ Do not raise your elbow above your
shoulder or any other movements
that cause you to stretch.
ξ Do not lift more than 5 pounds of
weight on your surgical side.
ξ Do not reach above your head or out
to the side.
No swimming, overhead motions, or golfing
for 3 months.
Avoid dental work for 1 month.
Wear a sling on the arm of your ICD
placement at night for the first week.
No driving for 1 week after the procedure
(or longer if recommended by your health
ICD ID Card
You have been given a temporary ID card.
Carry your card with you at all times. The
device company will mail your permanent
card to you in about 2 months. Be sure to let
all people that you see for health and dental
care know that you have a permanent
defibrillator. This includes all doctors,
nurses, dentists, and chiropractors or any
other person you see for your health care.
There are certain electrical hazards to be
aware of. See below for a list of cautions,
things to avoid, and devices that are okay to
be around. This is just a partial list. For
more information, call your device
company. The phone number is on the back
of your ID card.
ξ Working under the hood of a running
ξ MRI (magnetic resonance imaging)
ξ Electrocautery-in the operating room
or in the dentist’s office
ξ Arc welding
ξ Therapeutic radiation
ξ Cell phones: These should be 6
inches from your ICD. Place the
phone on the ear opposite of your
ICD or use a headset.
ξ Theft detection devices: These are
often around the entrances of stores.
Walk through them as you normally
would. Do not linger near these.
ξ Airport security: Tell security staff
that you have a device. Show them
your ID card.
Okay to be around:
ξ Microwave ovens
ξ Hair dryers
ξ Electric blankets and heating pads
ξ Radios, TVs, and stereos
When to Call
Call the doctor or ICD nurse the same day if
you receive a shock from your defibrillator.
If you receive more than one shock, or if
you receive a shock and feel that you are not
back to your baseline condition a few
minutes later, call an ambulance to take you
to the closest emergency room.
Who to Call
UW Health Heart and Vascular Care Clinic
ξ Monday to Friday: (608) 263-1530
ξ After hours, nights, weekends, and
holidays, the clinic number will be
answered by the message center.
Ask for the cardiology fellow on
call. Give the operator your full
name and phone number with the
area code. The doctor will call you
ξ If you live out of the area, please call
Planning for the Future
Even if your ICD is placed as a precaution,
we ask that you fill out advance directives.
These are legal forms that allow you to state
your health care wishes for future health
care should you be unable to make health
care decisions. A Durable Power of
Attorney for Health Care allows you to
name someone you know and trust to act on
your behalf if you can no longer speak for
yourself. The Living Will only covers “end
of life” decisions when life-support
machines and/or feeding tubes are used.
These forms tell others about your health
care wishes and can help guide care. They
make it easier to for doctors and family
members to follow through with your health
care wishes. The nurse case manager and/or
social worker can help you with these forms
We encourage you to think about your ICD
in case you are diagnosed with a terminal
illness or suffer a major injury. You do have
the choice to “deactivate” (turn off) the ICD
at any point in time. If your ICD is turned
off, it will not shock you if your heart goes
into an unsafe rhythm, which could lead to a
cardiac arrest and even death. We feel this is
important to discuss with your family and
health care team.
Your health care team may have given you this information as part of your care. If so, please use it and call if you
have any questions. If this information was not given to you as part of your care, please check with your doctor. This
is not medical advice. This is not to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Because each
person’s health needs are different, you should talk with your doctor or others on your health care team when using
this information. If you have an emergency, please call 911. Copyright © 10/2017 University of Wisconsin Hospitals
and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#5722