ICD Shocks

My mother had a pacemaker then got "upgraded" to an ICD. That leaves me wondering if the eventual plan for me is the same. If you have an ICD and it has "delivered therapy" how would you discribe the feeling?



how does it feel..

by joy1 - 2008-11-24 04:11:01

Hi, VV
My personal experience is that it hurts. It's like touching an electric wire. The first shock isn't too bad. The ones that follow are the hard ones. Shocks occur in groupings of three. The joules of each shock increases. The shocks stop once your heart goes back into sinus rhythm or it's rate slows down. Of course at what point you "receive therapies" depends on what your settings are at.

Some people say it doesn't hurt. I wish I had been like them. Having been around livestock most of my life, I'm quite familiar with hot wire fences. If you've ever touched one, the first shock you get feels about the same.

Hope you don't have to experience it.


ICD Shocks

by thomast - 2008-11-24 04:11:31

It does not necessarly do it 3 times. Mine has fired twice, the first time it shocked twice, the second time a few months later it shocked only once. That was in 05, has not fired since. I would say it is about the same as touching the spark plug on a lawn mower. Not too bad, but not pleasant.

relax and breath

by lb151 - 2008-11-24 04:11:48

I have had my ICD fire 2 seperate times. The first time I went down fast with V-tach,,I hardly recall the first shock and it had to fire again and I didnt mind that one at all. The next time it fired was 2 days after I had mitral valve replacement surgery. I was wide awake and my heart rate went to 200 and stayed there too long. It shocked me once . I saw a white flash and a dull kick in my chest. Yes,it hurts,,,but,it is over so quickly you really dont have time to complain. I was so freakin scared about my heart beating out my chest that I didnt care about the shock at all.
I have never heard anything about it having to shock 3 times.
Please try and find peace in having your ICD. Its hard to do but over time it becomes a friend you really dont mind having around.
take care


by joy1 - 2008-11-24 08:11:48

When I said there was a grouping of three shocks, I did not clarify it very well. Mine was set to increase the joules from 16 to 32 by the third shock. and if the problem hadn't resolved itself to repeat the sequence until it did resolve. Anytime the problem resolves itself the ICD will stop "giving therapies".

Unlike lb151, I had the misfortune of having my ICD fire 10 times in 20 minutes, until it knocked me out. My experience is not the norm but it can happen. It had not been programed correctly for the arrhythmias I have. With any luck, like lb151, you will be too distraught or unconscious and won't know what is happening.

Like I said, my experience was not the norm. Most ICDs are placed as a precaution for people at high risk and never go off. If you are experiencing alot of anxiety over having an ICD this group is great. Also, there hopefully is atleast one local group where you can get face to face with others.

MY take on the shocks...

by turboz24 - 2008-11-24 10:11:30

I actually only feel like I was spooked for around .5 seconds, that's how I think it feels. You know, the feeling you get when someone suprises you really good, and you just jump. Actually, after my first shock, I went straight back to weight lifting and the weights really felt way lighter, probably a little pump from the shock....
Usually when I was actually shocked, not ATP paced, I usually for straight defib, so I get hit with 31-34 joules. That's happened 2 times, no ramping, etc.

wow, read my post

by turboz24 - 2008-11-24 11:11:49

I didn't realize I had such broken english. I guess I was thinking ahead of myself there...

Ah, I was typing after a good workout, so guess I was a little low in the brain blood flow there......

slow/fast, upgrade/downgrade

by VonnieVern - 2008-11-25 04:11:55

I used to think a fast heartbeat would never be my problem. I got my pacemaker for bradycardia - so did my mother. Last year after she had a heart attack/stroke/seizure they replaced her pacemaker with an ICD. (I called it an upgrade because an ICD does more than a pacemaker, and is more expensive as well.) Saturday I had a fever, wasn't sure what was going on, but hadn't considered seeking medical care yet, until my heart rate went to 150 - I was lounging on the sofa at the time. Turned out that I have pneumonia, and perhaps that was my heart's response to the infection. I also had an atrial fibrillation episode last year, hope I never have ventricular vibrillation.


How does it feel?

by Katielou - 2008-11-25 05:11:11

It would appear that all posters above have actually felt what a shock is like. For me it is a case of going straight into Ventricular Fibrillation. I don't get any time to prepare for a shock although for a split second I do feel 'strange' and then I'm gone into cardiac arrest. The shock comes when I am unconscious so I don't feel a thing. My arrythmia is recorded at a life threatening 420 bpm so I can say quite honestly, thank goodness for my ICD. It's only happened twice in 4 years so I guess I'm very lucky.

Good luck to you,


Vfib and don't feel shock

by ElectricFrank - 2008-11-25 11:11:05


Have you talked this over with the EP? I have no experience with this so am just thinking out loud, but there may be an adjustment in the ICD that would deliver the jolt sooner and keep you from losing consciousness.


Pacemaker path to ICD?

by ElectricFrank - 2008-11-25 12:11:57

The conditions that require an ICD are much less frequent than the ones needing a pacemaker. The pacemaker provides HR pacing when there is a block in one of the conduction circuits in the heart. The ICD uses a shock to convert a life threatening rhythm like fibrillation back to a normal one.

I suspect that cardiologists are implanting ICD's more often now that they can be made part of a pacemaker device if there is any reason to suspect the patient might develop a threatening rhythm.


downgrade ?

by Red1958 - 2008-11-29 08:11:46

Well if my ICD is a down grade from a pacemaker my doc ripped me off.If my heart rate gets to slow my pacemaker helps me out ,if my heart rate gets to fast my defib helps me out.Would i UPGRADE to a pacer only? Dont think so

like being kicked by a horse

by Unasia - 2008-12-01 09:12:06

I had mine discharge while snow blowing, and it was a like a good hearty kick to the chest, but I did not lose consciousness and I was relieved to have it go off, when you dont know what it feels like, it makes you wonder what it will feel like. After my discharge, I felt like I at least had some kind of gauge on what is to much physical activity. But it turned out it was a setting done after I had complained about ongoing palpitations. The way to think of it is... it can save your life.

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