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What is an implanted cardioverter defibrillator (ICD)?

An implanted cardioverter defibrillator, commonly abbreviated (ICD), is a device that shocks the heart back into a normal rhythm if certain abnormal rhythms are detected. This is the same process that is seen in many TV shows and movies where paddles or pads are attached to the chest and a shock is given to restore a normal heartbeat. 


Implanted defibrillators do not require a bulky external box, medical staff, and a dead or dying patient to administer a shock. These devices are inside the body and connected to wires that lead directly to the heart. This allows them to detect an abnormal heart rhythm almost instantly. They use a much lower amount of electricity since the shock does not need to travel through the skin, muscle, bone, and other organs. 


These devices are placed in patients who are at high risk of having their heart stop beating or entering an abnormal rhythm that could lead to death. The most common conditions are:

  • Severe heart failure
  • Recent heart attacks that have lead to severe heart damage
  • Rare genetic diseases (Brugada syndrome, long QT, and hypertrophic cardiomyopathy) 
  • Previous episodes of sudden cardiac death (the heart stopping for no clear reason)
  • Previous episodes of certain high-risk abnormal heart rhythms

How do they implant defibrillators?

How serious is the surgery to implant a defibrillator?

How long is the procedure to put in a defibrillator?

How long does it take to recover from defibrillator surgery?

How long can a person live with an implanted defibrillator?

How often do you have to replace a defibrillator?

* Savings estimate based on a study of more than 1 billion claims comparing self-pay (or cash pay) prices of a frequency-weighted market basket of procedures to insurer-negotiated rates for the same. Claims were collected between July 2017 and July 2019. R.Lawrence Van Horn, Arthur Laffer, Robert L.Metcalf. 2019. The Transformative Potential for Price Transparency in Healthcare: Benefits for Consumers and Providers. Health Management Policy and Innovation, Volume 4, Issue 3.

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Your actual costs may be higher or lower than these cost estimates. Check with your provider and health plan details to confirm the costs that you may be charged for a service or procedure.You are responsible for costs that are not covered and for getting any pre-authorizations or referrals required by your health plan. Neither payments nor benefits are guaranteed. Provider data, including price data, provided in part by Turquoise Health.

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