Implantable Defibrillators

Today’s Implantable Cardiac Defibrillator

The automatic implantable cardiac defibrillator (AICD or ICD) represents one of the most important medical advances in the past quarter century. ICD devices are used to treat abnormally fast heart rhythms that are potentially life-threatening. They can quickly recognize an abnormal rhythm and deliver a low-voltage electrical shock to restore normal rhythm.

In certain patients who are at risk for sudden cardiac arrest due to arrhythmias, ICD devices have decreased mortality (sudden death) rates. Implantable cardiac defibrillators often have a fast recovery time is impressive with many patients home the day following surgery and some return to work within one week of implantation.

Scripps physicians were the first in the country to implant the dual chamber defibrillator in 1995 and the second to implant the biventricular defibrillator in 1999.

The newest ICD devices are barely larger than a pager, and are efficient enough to operate for up to seven years without a battery replacement. These newer defibrillators also feature advanced pacing capabilities, sometimes referred to as painless therapy, to silently stop life-threatening arrhythmias, often without the need for an electrical shock to regulate the heart beat.

Landmark research

The Scripps electrophysiology program is known internationally for its pivotal role in clinical research in cardiac arrhythmia management, particularly for implantable cardioverter defibrillator therapy. These include:

  • MADIT
  • MADIT-II
  • MADIT-CRT
  • CONTAK-CD

In combination with other research, these studies proved that selected patients live longer with an ICD than with medications that were previously considered standard medical therapy. These studies have helped to develop ICDs as the treatment of choice for life-saving prevention of ventricular arrhythmias and sudden death.