AICD Discharge

Your AICD (automated implantable cardioverter/defibrillator) delivered a shock today. You should be looked at by a healthcare provider either in person or remotely within 24 to 48 hours. Checking the device memory will help your healthcare team figure out the cause of the shock. Most of the time a shock is delivered only when a life-threatening heart rhythm problem (arrhythmia) appears. In this case, it's life-saving. Rarely, the AICD may discharge in error. For example, this might be in response to a non-life-threatening arrhythmia.

The shock can be painful and you may feel soreness in your muscles or just “shaken up” emotionally from the unexpected event.

If your AICD is discharging often, the cause can be found by checking the recordings of your heart rhythm just before the discharge occurred. Then your healthcare provider can adjust the AICD settings, assess any changes in your heart condition, or change your anti-arrhythmia medicines to reduce how often the device discharges.

Home care

The following guidelines will help you care for yourself at home:

  • Tell your healthcare provider if you have an AICD shock. They will advise you if you need to go to the hospital right away.

  • Current AICDs can connect with a remote monitoring system through the internet or a phone line. If you have remote monitoring set up for your AICD, you can do an interrogation and transmit the data to your healthcare provider

  • Talk with your provider about any limits on your activities. At a minimum, rest today and resume your usual activities tomorrow.

  • Don't push or pull on the defibrillator. This may cause the wires to become twisted.

  • Don't use cell phones close to the generator.

  • Because of the unexpected nature of arrhythmias and the AICD discharge, driving can be dangerous. It's often recommended that you have a 3- to 6-month shock-free period before driving again. Talk with your healthcare provider to see if it's safe for you to drive. Your state may have certain limits on driving.. You won't be able to get a commercial driver's license if you have an AICD because of the high risk for losing consciousness with the life-threatening heart rhythms that this device is designed to treat.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your healthcare provider, or as advised.

It's important your healthcare provider checks your device and the battery to make sure they are working correctly after the device has fired.

Battery life depends on how much your heart uses the device. The more times you get a shock from the device, the shorter time the battery will last. Ask your provider how often your device should be checked, but generally, you should have the battery checked at least every 6 months. Once the battery gets low enough, it goes into an energy-saving mode and the generator will have to be changed. In general, the generator has to be changed every 8 to 10 years.

Call 911

Call 911 if any of these occur:

  • Multiple shocks

  • Chest pain

  • Trouble breathing

  • Difficulty with speech or vision, weakness of an arm or leg

  • Weakness, dizziness, lightheadedness, or fainting

When to seek medical advice

Get medical attention right away if you have any of these:

  • Another AICD discharge

  • Your heart feels like it's fluttering or beating fast, hard, or irregularly (palpitations)

  • Prolonged hiccups

  • Pain, swelling, redness, drainage, bleeding, or warmth from the implant site

  • A fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher, or as advised by your provider

  • Your generator feels loose or like it's wiggling in the pocket under the skin

© 2000-2021 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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