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Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (ICD) and Pacemaker Source: National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institute of Health. www.nhlbi.nih.gov An implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) is a small device that's placed in your chest or abdomen. This device uses electrical pulses or shocks to help control life-threatening, irregular heartbeats, especially those that could lead the heart to suddenly stop beating (sudden cardiac arrest).
ICDs use electrical pulses or shocks to treat life-threatening arrhythmias that occur in the ventricles (lower chambers of the heart).
An ICD has wires with electrodes on the ends that connect to the chambers of your heart. The ICD will continually monitor your heart rhythm. When the device detects that you're having an irregular rhythm in your ventricles, the ICD will use low-energy electrical pulses to restore a normal rhythm. If this doesn't restore your normal heart rhythm, or if your ventricles start to quiver rather than contract strongly, the ICD will switch to high-energy electrical pulses for defibrillation.
Pacemakers can only give off low-energy electrical pulses. They are often used to treat less dangerous heart rhythms, such as those that occur in the upper chambers of your heart. Most new ICDs can act as both pacemakers and ICDs. LifeART Collection Images Copyright © 1989-2001 by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Baltimore, MD Pacemaker Electrodes Implantable Cardioverter