Ask the doctor: My defibrillator has never "fired." Should I keep it or have it taken out?

Published: June, 2011

Q. One day while I was gardening, I either slipped, hit my head, and passed out, or I passed out, fell, and hit my head. Since we couldn't tell, my doctors recommended I get a defibrillator as "insurance" in case a heart rhythm problem was the cause. I have had the defibrillator for eight years now, and it has never gone off. The battery is almost done and my doctor wants to put in a new battery. At age 86, I'd rather not have the procedure, the routine checkups are a hassle, and all of this is expensive. Could I just let the battery run down, then either leave the device in place or have it taken out?

A. Your question about continued use of an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) is an important one that patients and doctors across the country are grappling with.

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