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An ICD helps protect you against dangerous heart rhythms. By taking a few precautions, you can live the life you wish—doing what you've always done and the things you would like to do.
Here are a few things you can do to make the most of your ICD and feel good about it.
If you think you have an infection near your device, call your doctor right away. Signs of an infection include:
After you get an ICD or after you get a shock from the ICD, your doctor will suggest that you don't drive for a short time.
You can travel safely with an ICD. But you'll want to be prepared before you go.
Many medical tests and procedures won't affect your ICD. But some procedures include electromagnetic fields that could affect how your ICD works. To be safe:
Ask your doctor what sort of activity and intensity is safe for you and when you should stop exercising and call for help.
Ask them if they have been shocked and what it was like. Ask them how they cope with it. Talking with others can help you feel better.
This will help you get the best possible treatment if you get a shock and need help.
You may want to avoid an action because you think it may cause or has caused a shock. But a shock can occur at any time, and you can't prevent shocks by your actions alone. Don't stop doing things you enjoy to try to avoid a shock.
Most people who have an ICD can have an active sex life. If your doctor says that you can exercise and be active, then it's probably safe for you to have sex.
After you get the device placed, you'll let your chest heal for a short time before having sex again. If you or your partner is worried about having sex, talk with your doctor about your concerns. Your doctor or another health professional can give you support and advice.
Many people with ICDs worry that the ICD might shock them during sex. The risk of getting a shock during sex seems to be the same as during any other similar level of exercise. If you get a shock during sex, you follow your plan about when to call your doctor. If you get a shock, your partner will not be shocked or feel any pain.
This plan tells you who and when to call if you get a shock and how to stay calm.
In an advance care plan, include plans for your ICD. You can make the decision to turn off your ICD as part of the medical treatment you want at the end of life.
Some electric devices have a strong electromagnetic field. This field can keep your ICD from working right for a short time. These devices are in your home, garage, workplace, and hospital.
Your ICD may have an alarm, like a beep, that tells you when you are too close to an electromagnetic field. If you hear this alarm, move away from the source of the electromagnetic field.
Your doctor or the manufacturer of your ICD can give you a full list of what you need to avoid and what you need to keep a short distance away from your ICD.
Here are some examples.
Avoid devices with strong electromagnetic fields, such as:
Keep your ICD at least 0.6 m (2 ft) away from:
Keep your ICD at least 30 cm (12 in.) away from:
Keep your ICD at least 15 cm (6 in.) away from:
Do not stand near:
The idea of living with an ICD and getting shocked worries some people. This is normal. After all, you don't know when a shock might occur, and a shock could be a reminder that your heart is not as healthy as it could be. You may find it helpful to work with your doctor to have a plan for what to do if you get a shock.
In general, your plan depends on how you feel after you get a shock and how many times you get a shock.
Breathing exercises are one thing you could try. For example:
Some ICDs have an alarm system that can tell you when to call your doctor. The alarm does not mean that your ICD is not working. It means that your doctor needs to check something on your ICD. For example, an alarm might mean that the battery needs to be checked.
Your doctor can tell you what your alarm will sound like or feel like. You might hear beeping. Or you might feel a vibration, like a cell phone vibration. Your doctor may want you to call right away if you hear or feel an alarm.
Current as of: September 7, 2022
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:Rakesh K. Pai MD, FACC - Cardiology, Electrophysiology & Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine & E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine & Elizabeth T. Russo MD - Internal Medicine & Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & John M. Miller MD, FACC - Cardiology, Electrophysiology
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