ICD patients: You’re not alone


An implantable cardioverter defibrillator, or ICD, provides immediate therapy to life-threatening arrhythmias (heart beating too quickly or too slowly) through a painless pacing sequence or a jolt of electricity. Despite its lifesaving capabilities, an ICD may bring questions, fear and anxiety for many patients.

Here are three questions I’m often asked by ICD patients:

Q. What about airport security scanners and other magnetic devices? Will they interact with my ICD?

External electromagnetic or radiofrequency signals can impact an ICD, so patients should not stand in or near the doorway of stores with electronic theft-detection devices or in airport security areas. Instead, show your ICD identification card and ask to be hand searched at airports or other places with electronic security areas (sports venues, etc.). Also, cellular telephones shouldn’t be held on the side where your ICD has been implanted. Instead, use your opposite ear when talking. X-rays, including mammograms, are permitted.

Q. Can I drive with an ICD?

Yes, you may drive with an ICD. However, if you pass out with or without an ICD shock, Michigan law prohibits driving for six months after a syncopal event. Discuss this issue with your healthcare provider to keep you and those around you safe.

Q. Can I play sports or exercise?

Some patients may be advised by their doctors to avoid participating in contact sports to prevent damage to the ICD. However, other athletic activities may be permitted if the patient’s overall heart function can tolerate the activity.

Helping ICD patients cope

One way of helping patients cope with their challenges and fears is through the University of Michigan Young ICD Connection, which was established due to an overwhelming need for children, teens and young adults to know they are not alone in their journey with life-threatening arrhythmias and ICDs. What began 19 years ago as a program for the young has attracted ICD patients of all ages, along with their families, from throughout the United States.

The 2015 Young ICD Connection conference — “Change is good” — allows ICD recipients and their family members to share experiences with others and to develop a support network. Hosted by the Frankel Cardiovascular Center and Mott Congenital Heart Center cardiology staff, the event provides patients and family members with:

  • Education about heart disease, arrhythmias and ICDs.
  • Psychological support and resources to address related fear, panic, anxiety and depression.
  • Opportunities to develop new friends and a peer support network.
  • The chance to interact with U-M electrophysiology staff including: physicians, nurses, social workers and EP technicians who volunteer their time for this event.

The 2015 Young ICD Connection conference will be held on Saturday, October 3, 2015, from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., at the Ann Arbor City Club, 1830 Washtenaw Ave., Ann Arbor, MI 48104. It is expected to attract more than 150 attendees.

For more information, contact Helen McFarland, R.N., at hmcfarla@umich.edu or 734-232-4177.

Take the next step:

HelenMcFArland 2Helen McFarland, R.N., has been employed as a nurse at University of Michigan for 23 years. During the last 11 years, Helen has worked as a Device Nurse for the Department of Cardiology/Electrophysiology. She received certification by the Heart Rhythm Society as a specialist in cardiac device programming since 2007.




The University of Michigan Samuel and Jean Frankel Cardiovascular Center is a top ranked heart and heart surgery program among Michigan hospitals. To learn more, visit our website at umcvc.org.