Harvard Heart Letter

Driving under the influence of abnormal heart rhythms

New guidelines refine how long to wait after getting an ICD.

If you have an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD), your doctor probably told you to wait six months after getting it before driving. That advice comes from recommendations made back in 1996 by the American Heart Association (AHA) and what is now called the Heart Rhythm Society (HRS). At that time, most people who got an ICD did so only after blacking out or suffering a cardiac arrest due to a potentially deadly heart rhythm.

A growing number of people who have never had a heart rhythm problem, mainly heart attack survivors, are getting ICDs to prevent just such an occurrence. Should they wait six months before driving, too? Not necessarily, say the two organizations.

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