Questions to Ask Your Doctor: Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (ICD)

Implantable cardioverter defibrillators are implanted to restore normal heart rhythm and prevent sudden cardiac death. To help you understand what it does and how it may affect you or your family member before and after implantation, ask your doctor or healthcare team any questions you may have regarding the device and living with one.


View an animation of an ICD.

The following questions are common and may help you create your own list of questions.

Before Implantation:

  • What are the benefits versus the limitations of the ICD?
  • What is the general prognosis and how might my illness progress with an ICD?
  • How long does the ICD battery last? Will I ever need the ICD replaced?
  • Does the ICD protect me from a heart attack?
  • Does the ICD affect my original condition?
  • What are some specific ways that daily life will change?
  • Can my family member or I still drive, travel, have sex, work out or continue other activities we enjoy?
  • How long will my family member or me not be able to do those things?
  • Does the ICD affect my family member or me because of gender?
  • Does age have any bearing on how the ICD works?
  • Does one kind of therapy offer a better chance for survival or better quality of life?
  • Can you explain the ICD my child is receiving in understandable terms?
  • Is there anything I need to know about an ICD regarding end-stage heart failure or death?

After Implantation, Early Recovery, Adjustment

  • How do I take care of the wound after implantation?
  • How do I manage pain, symptoms and medications once back at home?
  • How soon can my family member or I return to physical activity, school, work, travel and sexual activities?
  • Are there any support groups or places online where my family member or I can get support or information?
  • What do shocks mean when they occur?
  • What should my family member or I expect when shocked?
  • Can anything be done to minimize the number of non-critical shocks?

It is natural to have many questions, concerns and emotions about a new ICD. Share with your doctors and healthcare team your thoughts and feelings. Ask about anything, from body image to fear of shocks to financial issues. Be direct, open and honest with your doctors and healthcare team and ask the same from them. 

Download and print our Answers by Heart sheet: What is an ICD? (PDF)