Harvard Heart Letter

Living with an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator

Implantable cardioverter-defibrillators (ICDs) save many lives. They monitor the heart's rhythm and rate, emitting a low-energy electrical correction when they detect a minor heart rate abnormality. They can also deliver a more significant jolt, likened to a swift kick in the chest, to halt potentially life-threatening rhythm disruptions. But having an ICD can complicate — as well as save — a person's life. If you're contemplating getting an ICD, the more you know about how it works and what it's like to live with one, the better. Such knowledge can help you accept having the device, especially if a shock occurs.
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