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Internal cardiac defibrillator implantation (ICD)

An implantable cardiac defibrillator (ICD) is a type of pacemaker that helps regulate abnormal heart rhythms

Devices used for internal cardiac defibrillator implantation (ICD), set against a blue background
An implantable cardiac defibrillator (ICD ) is a kind of pacemaker. It sends electrical pulses through electrodes (electricity conductors) to your heart to regulate abnormal rhythms, including those that might cause sudden cardiac arrest (which happens when your heart suddenly stops pumping blood around your body). An ICD is implanted under your skin, usually in the space just below your collar bone (clavicle), to monitor your heart rate and correct it when necessary.

Your heart's electrical system

Your heart pumps blood around your body with every beat, sending the necessary oxygen and nutrients to the right parts of your body to keep you alive. To pump your blood properly, your heart relies on a network of cells, often referred to as the heart's electrical system. If your heart's electrical system is not working properly, you might experience an abnormal heart rhythm (also known as an arrhythmia). In this case, you might need an ICD fitted to regulate your heart rhythms and prevent you from experiencing sudden cardiac arrest.

Your implantable cardiac defibrillator with Circle Health Group

At Circle Health Group, we have a large network of experienced consultants who can implant ICDs. To find out more, you can call a member of our advisory team on 0141 300 5009, or book an initial consultation online.

The cost of your implantable cardiac defibrillator implantation depends on a variety of factors, including where you have the procedure and the consultant that performs it.

Our fixed-price packages include the cost of your surgery and all appropriate aftercare appointments. However, any pre-surgery diagnostic tests and your consultant’s outpatient appointment consultation fee are charged separately.

Our flexible payment options help you spread the cost of your payment across a time period that suits you. We offer fixed-term monthly payment plans over one to five years with no deposit required. If you decide to pay over 10 months, you will pay interest-free. If you are paying for a longer period, you will pay 14.9% APR.

If you have private health insurance, hip replacement surgery will usually be covered by your provider. Speak to your insurer directly to find out.

*This is a guide price for patients who are paying for their own treatment. The actual cost of your treatment will be confirmed in writing at the time of booking.

An implantable cardiac defibrillator is a battery-powered device implanted in your chest. It is a little bigger than a matchbox. An ICD has thin wires (also known as electrodes) attached to it that connect directly to your heart. These electrodes monitor your heart rate and rhythm. If the device detects a dangerous or unusual heart rhythm it can deliver one or more of the following treatment options to help moderate your symptoms and prevent you from having sudden cardiac arrest:


The device will deliver a series of low-voltage electrical impulses (paced beats) at a fast rate to try and correct your heart rhythm.


The device will deliver one or more small electric shocks to try and restore your heart to a normal rhythm.


The device will deliver one or more larger electric shocks to try and restore your heart to a normal rhythm.

ICDs are generally most needed for those at risk of experiencing sudden cardiac arrest. You might need an implantable cardiac defibrillator if:

You have a genetic risk of heart failure

You might have had tests that show you are at risk of developing an abnormal heart rhythm in the future. This is usually due to a genetic condition such as a cardiomyopathy (which happens when the chambers of your heart become weakened or stiff), which affects your heart's ability to pump blood around your body. Your consultant will be able to tell you whether you have a genetic risk of heart failure and ensure you know how to manage this risk factor with an ICD, if needed.

You have had heart failure before

An ICD implant might be recommended if you have already experienced an abnormal heart rhythm and are at risk of experiencing it again.

You are experiencing heart failure

If you have heart failure and are at risk of developing a life-threatening heart rhythm, an ICD could prevent this.

You have ventricular arrhythmias

These are abnormal heart rhythms that make the lower chambers of your heart twitch instead of pump. This can limit or stop your heart from supplying blood to your body. 

Your consultant will begin the procedure by making an incision with a specialist instrument across your upper chest. They will then insert the thin wires of the implantable cardiac defibrillator through a vein in your chest and directly into your heart.

After the wires are placed in the right position in your heart, your consultant will create a small pocket under your skin in which to place the generator (a battery powered electronic circuit) and connect the wires to it. After everything is set in place, your consultant will test the ICD through a computer software to ensure it is programmed according to your exact needs. The incision will be closed with either stitches or glue.

An ICD implantation can be performed under either local anaesthetic or general anaesthetic. Local anaesthesia is when a small area of your body is numbed and you are conscious. General anaesthesia is when you're unconscious and unaware of the procedure. Your consultant will decide which of these is the best option for you depending on your circumstances.

The procedure time can vary depending on why you having the ICD fitted, but it usually takes up to three hours. 

Your consultant will usually ask that you avoid taking any medication the morning of the procedure. You will also be asked to not eat or drink from midnight onward before having the ICD implanted. 

You will not be able to drive yourself home after the surgery, so you will need to arrange for a friend or family member to collect you before you have surgery. Alternatively, we are happy to arrange for a taxi to pick you up from any of our hospitals.

Every ICD implantation is slightly different because an implantable cardiac defibrillator is fitted to suit your exact anatomy. This means the recovery period also differs from person to person, but generally it takes between four and six weeks to return to normal everyday activities after an ICD implantation, including strenuous exercise and driving.

Recovering in hospital

Directly after the procedure, you will return to your room where your heart rhythm will be monitored for 12 to 24 hours. Your healthcare team will assist you with anything you need while the sedation wears off. We will also provide you with comprehensive information about managing your recovery at home.

Two weeks after surgery

Your chest may feel uncomfortable and stiff in the first two weeks after surgery, but these symptoms can be managed effectively with traditional painkillers and rest. You might also feel a hard ridge along where the incision was made across your chest. This usually becomes softer about a month after surgery. It is normal to be able to see and feel the outline of the ICD under your skin. Your consultant will ensure you know how to wash and tend to your wound properly at home to protect it from becoming infected.

During this time, avoid movements that might put pressure on your wound, such as lifting heavy objects or exercising strenuously. You can enjoy gentle walks and low-impact exercise, but you should not overexert yourself. You will probably need to take one to two weeks off work to recover at home, but this depends on what you do and the rate of your recovery. Your consultant will be able to advise on this in relation to your personal circumstances.

Four to six weeks after surgery

You will be able to move more freely within four weeks after surgery. At this stage, you can slowly build up your exercise levels, but still avoid contact sport and strenuous levels of exercise until your consultant advises otherwise. You should also ask your consultant when it is safe to drive and travel; they will be able to provide you with an accurate timeline and appropriate information based on your specific situation.

You will have regular follow-up appointments

You will have regular follow-up appointments with your consultant in the months after your procedure. During these, they will check that your implantable cardiac defibrillator is functioning properly and that your heart is generally healthy.

You must discuss how to safely use electric devices at home with your consultant. You can use most household appliances, such as a microwaves and hairdryers, with an implantable cardiac defibrillator, but your consultant will provide you with a tailored list of objects you should avoid with an ICD to be on the safe side. This list shouldn't limit you at home or prevent you from living your normal, everyday life.

An ICD implantation is a highly safe and commonly performed procedure. Some people receive inappropriate shocks from the device, but this is rare. Your consultant will discuss the risks of the procedure with you before you have it to reassure you that they are uncommon. Potential risks are:

  • Infection
  • Allergic reactions to medicine
  • Bruising and swelling where the ICD is inserted
  • Blockage in your veins

When you choose to go private with Circle Health Group, you can expect:

  • Flexible appointment times and locations to fit your routine
  • The freedom to choose which hospital and consultant suit your needs
  • Personalised, consultant-led treatment plans tailored to your individual needs
  • Comfortable and safe private facilities maintained by expert multidisciplinary teams
  • Support by the same compassionate clinical team from beginning to end
  • Affordable, fixed-price packages with aftercare included
  • Flexible payment options to help you spread the cost of your care

If you would like to learn more about this procedure, book your appointment online today or call a member of our team directly on 0141 300 5009.

Content reviewed by Circle in-house team in July 2022. Next review due July 2025.

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