Skip to Content

Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (ICD)

An implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) is a small battery-powered device placed under your skin that monitors and treats heart rhythm disorders.

Why choose UPMC in Central Pa. for your ICD?

When you choose UPMC in Central Pa. for your ICD, you will receive expert care from some of the region's most experienced cardiologists who treat all types of irregular heart rhythms.

Our physicians implant hundreds of ICDs each year and use the latest technology and techniques. And, if you require additional cardiovascular care, the specialists at UPMC in Central Pa. have the skills and experience needed to perform advanced cardiovascular procedures and offer you the latest treatment options.

What is an ICD?

An ICD is a small electronic device that is implanted just below your collarbone to continuously monitor your heart's electrical activity. If an irregular heartbeat is detected, your ICD will send an electric impulse to your heart that will restore normal rhythm.

The device is about the size of a stopwatch. It consists of a pulse generator and wires, called leads. These leads run from the pulse generator to specific locations in your heart and can be installed through blood vessels, avoiding the need for open chest surgery.

Despite its small size, an ICD provides several life-saving functions, including anti-tachycardia pacing (ATP), defibrillation (stronger shock), and backup pacing. These therapies are programmed to your specific needs by your doctor.

What is subcutaneous ICD (S-ICD)?

An S-ICD device works similarly to an ICD. The entire assembly, including the defibrillator and leads, is placed under the skin. However, the leads are not inserted into your heart through your blood vessels, as they are during traditional ICD placement. Instead, an S-ICD is implanted under the skin in your armpit area and the leads run under your skin to an electrode in your chest. Your doctor may recommend an S-ICD if you are at risk of intravascular lead infections.

What happens during an ICD procedure?

An ICD insertion may be performed on an outpatient basis or as part of your hospital stay. Procedures may vary depending on your condition and your doctor's practices.

After you are positioned on your back on the procedure table, you will be connected to a variety of monitors to measure your vital signs (heart rate, blood pressure, breathing rate, and oxygenation level) during the procedure. You will also be connected to an electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) that records and monitors the electrical activity of your heart during the procedure using small electrodes that stick to your skin. Your procedure will most likely be performed under monitored anesthesia to keep you comfortable.

After the ICD insertion site is cleansed, your doctor will make a small incision where the ICD lead will be inserted into a blood vessel and guided into the heart. The ICD generator will be slipped under your skin through the incision (just below your collarbone) after the lead is attached to the generator.

Your doctor will perform certain tests to make sure the ICD is working and use the ECG to monitor the results. After your doctor confirms that your ICD is working properly, your skin incision will be closed and a sterile bandage or dressing will be applied.

What can I expect after an ICD procedure?

Your ICD procedure likely will require an overnight hospital stay. After your procedure, you may be taken to the recovery room for observation or returned to your hospital room where a nurse will monitor your vital signs. You should immediately inform your nurse if you feel any chest pain, tightness, or any other pain at the insertion site. The insertion site may be sore or painful and pain medication may be administered if needed.

After a period of bed rest, you may get out of bed without assistance. A nurse will assist you the first time you get up and will check your blood pressure while you are lying in bed, sitting, and standing. You should move slowly when getting up to avoid any dizziness from the period of bed rest. You will be able to eat and drink after you are completely awake.

How long does it take to recover after an ICD procedure?

After you arrive home, it will be important to keep the insertion site clean and dry. You will be given instructions about bathing and showering. You should be able to return to your daily routine within a few days. Your doctor will tell you if you need to take more time in returning to your normal activities. In addition, you should avoid lifting or pulling on anything for 4-6 weeks.

You may be instructed to limit movement of the arm on the side where your ICD was placed. You will be given specific instructions about what to do the first time your ICD delivers a shock. For example, you may be instructed to dial 911 or go to the emergency room in the event of a shock from the ICD. Calming yourself with slow, deep breaths can be helpful if you are anxious after a shock.

Based on the nature of your job, your overall health, and your progress, your doctor will determine how soon you may return to work. You will not be able to drive until your doctor gives approval. These limitations will be explained to you if they are applicable to your situation.

Notify your doctor to report any of the following:

  • Fever and/or chills
  • Increased pain, redness, swelling, bleeding, or other drainage from the insertion site
  • Chest pain or pressure, nausea and/or vomiting, profuse sweating, dizziness and/or fainting
  • Palpitation

Your doctor may give you additional or alternate instructions after the procedure, depending on your situation.

After implantation of an ICD, you must be aware of your surroundings and look out for devices that may interfere with its operation. Potentially disruptive devices include those with strong magnetic fields. The manufacturers of ICDs have different restrictions depending on your device. You should refer to the company's guidelines for specific instructions regarding your ICD and talk to your doctor if you have questions.

Need more information?

Cumberland/Dauphin/Franklin/Lebanon/Perry Counties: 717-731-0101
Adams/York Counties: 717-637-1738 or 717-849-5576
Lancaster County: 717-299-5000

Request Information


UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute
Located at UPMC Outpatient Center
1251 East Main Street
Suite 3
Annville, PA 17003

Adult Cardiology: 717-731-0101
Pediatric Cardiology: 717-761-0200

UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute
360 Alexander Spring Road
Carlisle, PA 17013

Adult Cardiology: 717-243-6557
Pediatric Cardiology: 717-761-0200
Fax: 717-243-0102

UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute
2020 Technology Parkway
Mechanicsburg, PA 17050

Adult Cardiology: 717-731-0101
Pediatric Cardiology: 717-761-0200
Fax: 717-731-8359 

UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute
900 Century Drive
Suite 100
Mechanicsburg, PA 17055

Phone: 717-591-3660 or 800-248-0257
Fax: 717-591-3661

UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute
Located at Medical Professional Center of Newport
300 Bretz Court
Newport, PA 17074

Phone: 717-567-7246 or 800-248-0257
Fax: 717-567-2621 

UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute
2808 Old Post Road
Harrisburg, PA 17110

Adult Cardiology: 717-920-4400
Pediatric Cardiology: 717-761-0200
Fax: 717-920-4401

UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute
12 Saint Paul Drive
Suite 205
Chambersburg, PA 17201

Adult Cardiology: 717-217-6881
Pediatric Cardiology: 717-761-0200
Fax: 717-217-6889

UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute
Located at Commerce Park Professional Center
20 Expedition Trail
Suite 203
Gettysburg, PA 17325

Phone: 717-637-1738
Fax: 717-646-7430

UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute
Located at UPMC Outpatient Center
2201 Brunswick Drive
Hanover, PA 17331

Phone: 717-637-1738
Fax: 717-646-7430 

UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute
16324 Mount Airy Road
Lower Level
Shrewsbury, PA 17361

Phone: 717-849-5576
Fax: 717-718-9972

UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute
1600 6th Avenue
Suite 105
York, PA 17403

Phone: 717-849-5576
Fax: 717-718-9972 

UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute
1555 Highlands Drive
Suite 100
Lititz, PA 17543

Phone: 717-299-5000
Fax: 717-431-1205 

UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute (formerly Cardiac Consultants)
1697 Crown Avenue
Suite 100
Lancaster, PA 17601

Phone: 717-299-5000
Fax: 717-431-1205

Connect with the UPMC Central PA Portal app 24/7

The UPMC Central PA Portal provides patients with convenient and secure access to their health information right at their fingertips. View test results. Get virtual care. Message your care team. Schedule and manage appointments. And much more.

Log-In or Sign Up Today

Contact UPMC

When it comes to health care for you and your family, UPMC is here. It's easy to find the right doctor, health screenings, programs, classes, and more.

Contact UPMC in central Pa.