Cardioverter Defibrillator Implantation, Care After

Refer to this sheet in the next few weeks. These instructions provide you with information on caring for yourself after you have had an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) put (implanted) in your chest. Your caregiver may also give you more specific instructions. Your treatment has been planned according to current medical practices, but problems sometimes occur. Call your caregiver if you have any problems or questions after your procedure.

HOME CARE INSTRUCTIONS

Medications

  • Only take your regular medications as directed by your caregiver. Make sure you receive specific instructions about when to take them and how much to take, especially if they were stopped or changed.  

  • Only take over-the-counter or prescription medications as directed by your caregiver.  

  • If antibiotic medications were prescribed, take them as directed. Finish them even if you start to feel better.  

  • Do not take any other medications without asking your caregiver first. Some medications, including certain painkillers, can cause bleeding after surgery.  

Wound Care 

  • Take off the bandage as directed after you are home (usually 1–2 days after surgery).

  • You may have pieces of tape called skin adhesive strips over the area where the cut was made (incision site). Let them fall off on their own.  

  • Check the incision site every day to make sure it is not infected, bleeding, or starting to pull apart.  

  • Do not use lotions or ointments near the incision site unless directed to do so.  

  • Keep the incision area clean and dry for 2–3 days after the procedure or as directed by your caregiver. It takes several weeks for the incision site to completely heal.  

  • Follow the specific bathing instructions provided by your caregiver. Do not take a bath until your caregiver says it is OK.  

Activities 

  • Try to walk a little every day. Exercising is important after this procedure. It is also important to use your shoulder on the side of the ICD in daily tasks that do not require exaggerated motion.  

  • Avoid sudden jerking, pulling, or chopping movements that pull your upper arm far away from your body for at least 6 weeks.  

  • Do not lift your upper arm above your shoulders for at least 6 weeks. This means no tennis, golf, or swimming for this period of time. If you sleep with the arm above your head, use a restraint to prevent this from happening as you sleep.  

  • You may go back to work when your caregiver says it is OK. Check with your caregiver before you start to drive or play sports.  

Other Instructions 

  • Follow diet instructions if they were provided. You should be able to eat what you usually do right away, but you may need to limit your salt intake.  

  • Weigh yourself every day. If you suddenly gain weight, fluid may be building up in your body.  

  • Always carry your ICD identification card with you. The card should list the implant date, device model, and manufacturer. Consider wearing a medical alert bracelet or necklace.  

  • Tell all caregivers that you have an ICD. This may prevent them from giving you a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan because of the strong magnets used during that test.  

  • If you must pass through a metal detector, quickly walk through it. Do not stop under the detector or stand near it.  

  • Avoid places or objects with a strong electric or magnetic field, including:  

  • Airport security gates. When at the airport, let officials know you have an ICD. Your ID card will let you be checked in a way that is safe for you and that will not damage your ICD. Also, do not let a security person wave a magnetic wand near your ICD. That can make it stop working.  

  • Power plants.  

  • Large electrical generators.  

  • Radiofrequency transmission towers, such as cell phone and radio towers.  

  • Do not use amateur (ham) radio equipment or electric (arc) welding torches. Some devices are safe to use if held at least 1 foot from your ICD. These include power tools, lawn mowers, and speakers. If you are unsure of whether something is safe to use, ask your caregiver.  

  • You may safely use electric blankets, heating pads, computers, and microwave ovens.  

  • Hold cell phones and remote controls at least 1 foot away from your ICD. When using your cell phone, hold it to the ear opposite of the ICD. Do not leave your cell phone in a pocket over the ICD.  

  • Keep all follow-up appointments. This is how your caregiver makes sure your chest is healing the way it should. Ask your caregiver when you should come back to have your stitches or staples taken out.  

  • Have your ICD checked every 3–6 months or as directed by your caregiver. Most ICDs last for 4–8 years before a new one is needed.

SEEK MEDICAL CARE IF:

  • You feel one shock in your chest.

  • You gain weight all of a sudden.  

  • Your legs or feet swell more than they have before.  

  • It feels like your heart is fluttering or skipping beats (heart palpitations).

SEEK IMMEDIATE MEDICAL CARE IF:

  • You have chest pain. 

  • You feel more than one shock.

  • You feel more short of breath than you have felt before. 

  • You feel more lightheaded than you have felt before. 

  • You have problems with your incision site, such as swelling or bleeding, or it starts to open up.  

  • You notice signs of infection around your incision site. Watch for:  

  • Warmth.  

  • Redness.  

  • Worsening pain.  

  • Swelling.  

  • Fluid leaking from the incision site.  

  • You have a fever.  

MAKE SURE YOU:

  • Understand these instructions.

  • Will watch your condition.

  • Will get help right away if you are not doing well or get worse.