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Are There Any Defibrillator Shock Side Effects

Are There Any Defibrillator Shock Side Effects?

Defibrillators are known to help patients who experience sudden cardiac arrest; this is not new news to anyone with a heart condition. It is a heart shocking device that has assisted countless patients on numerous occasions. However, are there any health side effects associated with these devices? Defibrillator dangers are qualities that research has discovered recently. How do you cope with this during Covid 19? 

ICDs have multiple health benefits to patients, the main one being that they deliver shocks that assist in restoring a natural heart rhythm when your heart’s lower chambers start pacing or beating in an abnormal manner. 

An implantable cardioverter defibrillator, ICD, shock is known to decrease the risk of death in patients and to elevate cardiac enzymes. Experts proved this fact by defibrillation testing of the heart. There are various studies that state that different types of heart shocks affect patients differently. The American Heart Association provides multiple free resources and news on this topic on their site that you could utilize for informative purposes. This page is going to review this topic in further depth so that you know exactly what to expect or search for when using defibrillators and dealing with ventricular fibrillation or other heart conditions

Understanding ICD Shocks

An implantable cardioverter defibrillator, ICD, offers constant treatment and monitoring for an abnormal heartbeat, also known as cardiac arrhythmias. The devices help to restore the patients’ normal rhythm without having to go to a hospital after experiencing the pacing of the heart. The implantable cardioverter defibrillator picks up a heart condition, called cardiac arrhythmias immediately and delivers an automatic small shock to restore a normal heartbeat.

ICD Shock side effects

Patients often describe the shock as a sensation that one can associate with a swift kick to the chest. In terms of pain, the average rate is six, on a scale of zero to 10. However, research from medical experts shows that ICD shocks are the main reason why people experience a decrease in their quality of life after going through such an occurrence. With that being said, medications are on the same level as these devices. 

Why Do Patients Receive an ICD Shock?

According to the American Heart Association, the four main reasons why patients receive an ICD shock for their heart include:

  1. Device malfunction
  2. Ventricular arrhythmias
  3. Supraventricular arrhythmias
  4. Electromagnetic interference

Device malfunction, supraventricular arrhythmias, and electromagnetic interference are all considered an inappropriate ICD shock because they deliver a shock to patients who are not experiencing a life-threatening heart problem. To figure out the cause of the shock, you want to try to get an interrogation performed within 24 hours of the occurrence. 

If ICDs are giving patients repetitive shocks to the heart, you need to search for immediate medical attention as this is a health emergency. 

Reason for Shock


Device Malfunction

Fractured leads, loss of capture after the shock, dislodged leads, and redundant loops or endocardial leads.

Ventricular Arrhythmias

This condition is the reason why people developed ICDs, which means it is an appropriate shock that you do not have to be concerned about.

Supraventricular Arrhythmias

These occur when you do not fine-tune the ICD enough to differentiate between the type of heart problem.

Electromagnetic Interference

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), arc welding, and large magnetic fields. 

Defibrillator, ICD, Shock Side Effects

The most common defibrillator pacemaker side effects include:

  • Anxiety 
  • Depression
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Pain
  • Trauma

While the side effects include physical and mental factors, an ICD shock also leads to further health-related procedures, which means patients have more expenses, apart from their health issues. To reduce the defibrillator implant side effects, you want to ensure that you receive high-quality care that minimizes the risk of more health or heart problems. The best way to do this is to reduce a circumstance that leads to inappropriate ICD shocks of the heart. Patients need to understand that the side effects they experience are related to the quality of care they receive; it is not simply about whether the ICD was implanted in appropriate patients. 

Defibrillator ICD Shock Side Effects

What Should You Avoid with a Defibrillator?

There are specific precautions you can take with your implantable cardioverter defibrillator, ICD if you want to prevent negative health side effects associated with the shocks. While clinical advancements in healthcare and technology have made it easier to ensure that other factors do not interfere with the devices, there are things you need to avoid. Fibrillation patients who use an ICD device need to avoid:

  • Large magnetic fields or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) devices. If your defibrillator goes off and has contact with this, it may affect the programming of the device or the way it functions. If your doctor states that you need an MRI scan, you should talk to your cardiologist about this first. 
  • Using heat in physical therapy sessions for the treatment of muscles – this is also called diathermy.
  • Working near devices or objects with large motors such as cars or boats. These motors may have an impact on the magnetic field of the defibrillator, which affects its’ ability to restore a normal heart rhythm. 
  • Machines that have a high radar or voltage. Examples include radios, television transmitters, arc welders, radar installations, smelting furnaces, or high-tension wires. 
  • Keeping headphones near the ICD device. A few headphones contain magnetic substances that impact how the defibrillator functions, which may increase the risk of using the implanted device. 
  • Not telling your heart doctors or healthcare providers that you have implanted devices. This action could impact the procedure you need to receive; therefore, you need to get professional medical advice.
  • Not carrying your identification card that states that you are in possession of an implanted device. 

If you are uncertain about something related to your ICD, heath, or heart condition, talk to your heart doctor or medical practitioner. This is a matter of life or death; therefore, you need to familiarize yourself with the risk of these defibrillators. 

What Does a Defibrillator Shock Feel Like?

A patient can expect to experience pain when they get shocked by defibrillators. Previous patients have described this pain as a sudden jolt; it is not a slow process. In fact, if you have ever been kicked in the chest, you can expect a similar feeling. 

Additionally, you can expect a different feeling when you receive an ICD shock to the heart in a clinical treatment session. If you are unconscious when receiving the shock, whether internal or external shocks, from an ICD or other types of defibrillators, you are not going to feel or remember the shock. 

With that being said, people experience both appropriate and inappropriate electric shocks from defibrillators during their life. There are times where you are going to be awake, at which you can expect an uncomfortable feeling. It is not unbearably painful, but patients do find this uncomfortable. 

An inappropriate ICD shock often occurs when ICDs mistake a different type of beat or heart rhythm for an abnormal heart beat that originates in the lower chambers of the human heart, which is called ventricular arrhythmias. 

The most important thing to remember is your heart and that you need it to have a normal rhythm. An ICD of other forms of defibrillators is an excellent tool to help protect you against life-threatening heart conditions, such as ventricular fibrillation and other related heart issues. 

How Should You Respond to an ICD Shock?

While the electric shock you receive from ICDs may be discomforting, it is often an indication that the device is doing its’ job and protecting you from a severe life-threatening or abnormal heart rhythm and sudden cardiac death. 

If you are concerned about the health side effects of ICDs, you can determine a procedure to help you contain your emotions should this occur. By establishing a plan, you and your family know exactly what to do in the hours that lead up to the shock and when you need to go to the hospital or contact your doctor. 

What Should You Do Before Your Defibrillator Shocks You? Preparing for the Shock

There are three areas to focus on before receiving your ICD shock to keep you from pacing uncontrollably. These areas include:

  1. Educating yourself
  2. Information control
  3. Developing an action plan

Educate Yourself

The best way to overcome your fear of an ICD shock to the heart is to learn more about it and its’ health benefits. While you may feel that knowing about the procedure is not essential, if you do research on how defibrillators operate, the purpose behind an ICD shock, and appropriate ways to respond, you may reduce the risk of experiencing adverse side effects. We encourage you to talk to other people, especially previous ICD patients, about cardiac arrest and how the ICD device keeps you safe. Use various health resources and news articles to keep yourself informed. 

Information Control

Keep all your relevant health documents in place to reduce your anxiety levels. Three things that you always need to have readily available include your ICD identification, a list of your prescribed medicine, and the name and phone number of your doctor. 

By having this information on hand, healthcare workers are going to find it easier to care for patients in cases of emergency. A helpful tip that we recommend is to write down the name of your doctor and a list of your necessary medications on a card and keep it in your purse or wallet. 

Action Plan

You may feel that it is helpful to practice what you are going to do when you receive an ICD shock. In certain circumstances, the patients’ doctor may have a plan for them, but typically, you are should discuss the following with a doctor in the hours that lead up to a shock:





The patient received ICD shock

No side effects

Phone the heart doctor to schedule a follow-up appointment to discuss the procedure. 

The patient received ICD shock.

The patient experiences a rapid heart rhythm, chest pain, shortness of breath. They may also feel confused, dizzy, or unwell. 

Seek immediate medical attention or go to the hospital.  

The patient received more than one ICD shock in the previous 24 hours

The patient either experiences no side effects or they feel sick. 

Seek immediate medical attention or go to the hospital. 

What Should You Do After Your Defibrillator Shocks You?

Implantable cardioverter defibrillator, ICD, shocks have proven that they are consistent when it comes to saving people’s lives from sudden cardiac arrest. You can directly link the outcome after receiving the shocks to how one reacts and copes to the shock. 

Many individuals may find that experiencing an implantable cardioverter defibrillator shock is extremely discomforting, painful, and have an impact on your mental health ( For example, anxiety, depression, and fear). How do you respond to this, and what can you do to limit any negative encounters?

When you respond, you need to consider both physical and mental health actions. You want the way you respond to have minimal adverse health effects; the goal is to achieve the optimal quality of life. 

Strategies After You Experience ICD Shocks

The best advice is to keep calm, relax, and focus after getting shocked. Generally, the automatic response of the human body to an ICD shock is arousal, which means that your body experiences a level of heightened awareness. If you do not take control of your response by focusing and breathing, you can experience something called hyperarousal. Engaging in deep-breathing exercises and techniques is an excellent way to reduce the impact of arousal after receiving a shock by the implanted machine. There are various free apps or free resources you can use to practice deep breathing exercises that help slow down a pacing heart. 

How can you practice proper breathing techniques? Try the following:

  • Stay in a comfortable position – try a reclined position with one hand on your stomach and the other on your upper chest. 
  • Close your eyes and place all your focus on the way you breathe. Pay attention to the different ways that each of your hands moves.
  • Focus your attention on your breathing patterns. Your mind tries to wander to other topics, but you need to keep all the attention on the way you breathe. 
  • Practice these techniques on a regular basis. You want to develop your skills as much as possible so that you are more comfortable each time, which leads to deeper levels of relaxation. 

One cannot emphasize the importance of positive thinking enough on an individual’s health. Professional research conducted at a university shows that ICD patients’ attitudes have a significant impact on their responses after the shock. Experiencing a shock like this does have the ability to reduce your feelings of safety or negatively impact your mental state in some other way. 

You need to actively remind yourself about the positive factors in your life. Make a list of all the things that make you happy, such as hobbies and relationships, so that you have a constant reminder of the things that bring you joy. Having a positive outlook on life and your future is essential in all stages of recovery. 

To help you with this, you may want to consider debriefing. Everyone wants to avoid the idea of receiving a shock. Discuss the reasons behind the shock with your doctor. Your doctor is going to do whatever is necessary to prevent the need for a future ICD shock and improve your healthcare. This may be done by adjusting your implantable cardioverter defibrillator settings or your medications. 

Additionally, you need to ensure that you carry on doing your daily activities that are peaceful, pleasant, and exciting. An ICD patient often fears receiving a future shock, which means that they try to avoid doing specific things. A shock can occur whenever, which means that you cannot live your life in fear. 

How to Avoid Defibrillator Shocks?

Currently, the only way to avoid an implantable cardioverter defibrillator, ICD, shock is to have regular medical follow-ups and medications. However, related health resources show that medicine is not as effective as an ICD when it comes to treating ventricular arrhythmias or other heart conditions. 

Once you have already received implantation, it becomes slightly more challenging to avoid the shock produced by ICDs. Therefore, you want to try to limit the occurrence of a situation that leads to an inappropriate shock. Strategies you can implement to reduce both appropriate or inappropriate ICD shocks include:

  1. Ensuring maximum device programming,
  2. A fully functioning ICD battery,
  3. Therapy with the appropriate medicine
  4. Receiving catheter ablation -The catheter ablation procedure helps to treat any slow or abnormal beat or ventricular fibrillation that occurs in the lower chambers of the heart. 

Can You Continue with Your Regular Daily Activities After Experiencing an ICD Shock? 

Once the ICD has been implanted, you can carry on with your normal daily routine. Your heart doctors give you proper health guidelines for taking care of your heart; however, this device usually does not place any limitations on your life. You can still go to university, exercise, go to work, participate in sports and recreational activities, and go to work. 

While you can continue with your normal life, it is recommended that you try to not take a beat on the skin over the device. This may have negative effects on the ICD, which is why you should see your doctors if this were to occur. Whether you are a scholar, university student, or working adult, you do not need to let your implanted machine or ventricular heart condition impact the quality of your life in a negative way. 

How Do You Know that Defibrillators are Working Properly?

In general, a good quality ICD device is built to last for around five to seven years; however, it is recommended that you review or test the device on a regular basis to ensure that everything is still working properly regarding the battery and programming. The procedure that heart doctors use to check the defibrillators vary; some doctors can observe this while you are at home via a remote monitoring system over an internet or phone connection, which is extremely useful during Covid 19. The process is not complicated as the manufacturer provides all the necessary equipment. Your doctor is also going to recommend device checks in person so that they can monitor your overall health, heart condition, and the battery of the ICD. If any adjustments need to be made to ICDs, they need to be done by a trained medical professional in person, with the aid of a device programmer. 

What functions need to be checked to ensure that the quality of the ICD meets the desired standard? The lead wire connection and battery life are two essential factors to look for, amongst various other factors. During the test, the doctor places the ICD to a programmer while using a wand that they put on the patient’s skin over the ICD. It is a non-invasive clinical and health practice that you do not have to stress about. 

Your doctor may also check your pulse rate at specific intervals. If you notice any symptoms or abnormal activity that you used to experience before the ICD implantation, it is vital that you report it to your medical provider or heart doctor immediately. For more information on this, you can search the web page or site of the American Heart Association. 

The Bottom Line

When you experience an implantable cardioverter defibrillator, ICD, shock, it can be an awful reminder about one’s heart condition or the fear of sudden cardiac death. Despite the side effects, an ICD device is still the best and most efficient treatment when you have to restore a normal heart rhythm and prevent cardiac arrest. You can still beat the negative impacts and search for a good quality of life after dealing with an ICD shock to the heart. 

It is possible to plan for the shock. Call your family members, friends, healthcare team, or significant other to help you prepare for the ICD chest shock. It is time to engage in pre and post-shock coping techniques and strategies if you do not want the side effects of an implantable cardioverter defibrillator to affect the quality of your life going forward. 

The American Heart Association web page or site advises that you consult with your heart doctor on any matters that concern you regarding ICDs, their side effects, and ventricular heart conditions.

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