Implantable Defibrillator

What it's for

Some people are in danger of developing a dangerously fast or irregular heart rhythm that can lead to death within minutes.

An implantable cardioverter defibrillator, or ICD, is a device that can detect abnormal heart rhythms and then shock your heart back to its regular rhythm. ICDs have saved many people from sudden cardiac death.

How it's done

ICDs are surgically implanted by an electrophysiologist, a doctor who specializes in heart rhythm problems.

You are given medication through an IV to help you relax, but you remain awake during the procedure. You are also given an anesthetic to numb the skin at the site of the incision. Your heart rate and blood pressure are monitored throughout the procedure.

An incision is made just under your left collarbone. The leads (wires) from the ICD are directed down veins until they make contact with your heart. The generator of the ICD is then placed beneath your skin.

The surgery to place an ICD typically takes from 2-4 hours.

If the ICD detects an abnormal heart rhythm, the generator will provide an electrical shock that travels down the leads and to your heart. This shock will restore your heart to its regular rhythm.


Complications from the placement of an ICD are rare. They include the following:

  • Infection
  • Allergic reaction to medications
  • Bleeding or bruising
  • Swelling
  • Damage to veins
  • Bleeding around the heart
  • Blood leaking in the heart at the site of the leads

Technology and expertise at URMC

The University of Rochester Medical Center has been one of the world's leaders in the development of ICDs and their use to treat heart rhythm disorders. Our team of researchers have set the standards for all doctors to treat patients with defibrillators.

URMC researcher Arthur Moss, M.D. is the leader of the world-famous MADIT clinical trials that helped establish ICDs as an effective treatment for patients who are in danger of sudden cardiac death. Dr. Moss is also recognized for his work in using ICDs to treat patients with long QT syndrome, a deadly heart rhythm disorder.

URMC has three fully-equipped electrophysiology labs for the diagnosis and treatment of heart rhythm disorders. Our labs are staffed by nurses and technicians who work exclusively with patients who have heart rhythm disorders.

The Electrophysiology Lab at URMC performs thousands of cases every year.

Instructions for patients

Would you like to download the instructions you will need the day of your procedure? Click on the link below.

Patient Instructions

Download Patient Consent Form

Who to contact

For more information on having an ICD placed at URMC, please call us at (585) 275-4775.


Medicine of the Highest Order