Defibrillation is a life-saving technique in which an electronic device, called a defibrillator, gives an electric shock to the heart to help restore normal heart rhythm. This is required when a life-threatening abnormality of heart rhythm such as ventricular fibrillation (VF) or ventricular tachycardia (VT), which are both common causes of cardiac arrest, occurs. Defibrillators can be implanted after one of these events occurs or they may be indicated if you have a known abnormality of the heart that increases your risk of an abnormal rhythm occurring.
Implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD)
- Also known as automatic internal cardiac defibrillator (AICD)
- These are small units that are implanted in the body similar to pacemakers and can perform pacemaking functions in addition to defibrillation. The generator for the defibrillator is commonly implanted in a pocket under the skin just below one of the collar bones on the front of your chest.
- The defibrillator regularly checks the patient’s heart rhythm and delivers shocks for different life threatening arrhythmias. The device can also use pacing to overcome an abnormal heart rhythm.
- The electronic leads used for monitoring heart rhythm and delivering the electrical shock to the heart can be inserted within the veins that connect to the heart (transvenous defibrillator) or in the tissues of the body wall (subcutaneous defibrillator).