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Automatic Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator

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Automatic Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator

Some patients have a heart condition called arrhythmia, which is a change in the natural rhythm of the heart. Arrhythmias are characterized based on how the heart is beating.

  • Too Fast (tachycardia)
  • Too Slow (brachycardia)
  • Irregularly (atrial fibrillation)

Changes in the heart rhythm can cause changes in how the blood is delivered throughout the body. When the heart is not working properly, you can have damage in your brain and other organs. In some cases arrhythmia can actually cause the heart to stop beating.

The most common symptom of arrhythmia is a palpitation or skipped beat that happens in succession to cause a feeling of fluttering in your chest. When arrhythmias occur frequently and last for a long period of time, you may have the following symptoms that need evaluation by a cardiologist:

  • Fatigue or consistent tired feeling
  • Dizziness or feeling faint
  • Rapid or inconsistent fluttering in your chest or neck
  • Inability to catch your breath or chest pain
  • In life-threatening cases, some patients may faint and go into cardiac arrest. This is a medical emergency. Call 911.

If you are diagnosed with arrhythmia and need a defibrillator to help your heart beat regularly, your cardiologist may recommend one called an automatic implantable cardioverter defibrillator (AICD). This unit, which is implanted in your chest near the heart, is equipped with electrodes that sense your heart beat. It also has a generator that functions as a heart regulator – shocking your heart to restore a natural rhythm and as a pacemaker to help “pace” the beats to keep them from becoming too fast or too slow. This all-in-one unit provides lifesaving monitoring of your heart’s function.

AICD Implantation

Before you have an AICD implanted, you will first undergo an electrophysiology study to determine if it will be the best treatment for your arrhythmia. If you would benefit from an AICD, you will have a minimally invasive procedure at WakeMed.

Under general anesthesia, your cardiologist will make a small incision in your upper chest near the collarbone. A wire will be run through a vein into the heart and a small cavity will be created to place the AICD, which is about the size of a deck of cards. The unit, which is connected to the wire, will be tested to ensure that you are receiving the appropriate shock to regulate your heart beat. This testing of the unit is done under sedation so you will not be uncomfortable.

The entire procedure takes one to two hours, and most patients remain in the hospital for up to four days for observation.

Learn What to Expect from AICD Insertion