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Your doctor may have told you that you need an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD). Now, you and your family probably have some questions and concerns about the ICD. This page can help answer many of your questions.

What is an ICD?

An ICD is a small electronic device that's implanted inside the body. The device continuously monitors your heartbeat. If it senses a dangerously rapid heart rhythm, it delivers one or more pulses or shocks to the heart and restores a more normal rhythm.

Why is the ICD Important?

You may be given an ICD if you have had a cardiac arrest or if you have a rapid heart rhythm problem that could lead to cardiac arrest. (During cardiac arrest, the heart stops pumping blood to the body. If left untreated, cardiac arrest can lead to death.)

Even though it is not a cure for your heart rhythm problem, the ICD can save your life by quickly bringing a dangerously rapid heart rhythm under control. Because it is a life-saving aid, having an ICD may give you more freedom to participate in activities you enjoy.

How the Heart Works

Before discussing the details of the ICD, it helps to understand how the heart works.

The Heart as a Pump

The heart is a muscular, hollow organ that constantly pumps blood throughout the body.

The heart is made up of four compartments, or chambers. There are two chambers on the "left side" and two on the "right side." The upper chamber on each side, called an atrium (plural: atria), receives and collects blood. The lower chamber on each side, called a ventricle, pumps blood.
The four heart chambers work together to contact and pump blood. As it circulates, blood delivers oxygen and nutrients throughout the body.