Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillators (ICDs), are small medical devices that continuously monitor your heart rhythm and are able to detect and treat abnormal heart rhythms. It may be able to terminate arrhythmias with rapid pacing or deliver electrical shocks if your heart stops beating or beats too quickly.

How Does an ICD Work?

ICDs are implanted under the skin, typically just below the collarbone. The device consists of a battery, a microprocessor, and one or two leads (wires). The leads are inserted into the heart through veins and are attached to the heart muscle. The ICD can monitor your heart rhythm and deliver electrical pulses or shocks to correct abnormal heart rhythms.

Where Are ICD Leads Placed?

The location of the ICD leads depends on the type of arrhythmia being treated.

  • Left Ventricle: The most common location for ICD leads is the left ventricle, which is the heart's main pumping chamber. In this location, the leads can be used to monitor heart rhythm and deliver electrical pulses or shocks to correct abnormal heart rhythms.
  • Right Ventricle: ICD leads can also be placed in the right ventricle, which is the heart's lower right chamber. This location is typically used when the arrhythmia is originating in the right ventricle.
  • Coronary Sinus: In some cases, ICD leads may be placed in the coronary sinus, which is a vein that runs along the back of the heart. This location is typically used when the arrhythmia is originating in the atria, the heart's upper chambers.

How Are ICD Leads Inserted?

ICD leads are inserted through a surgical procedure. The procedure typically takes about one to two hours. During the procedure, the doctor will make a small incision in your chest and insert the ICD leads into your heart through veins. The leads will be attached to the heart muscle and the incision will be closed.

What Are the Risks of ICD Leads?

The risks of ICD leads are relatively low, but include:

  • Infection: There is a small risk of infection at the site where the ICD leads are inserted.
  • Bleeding: There is a small risk of bleeding during the ICD lead insertion procedure.
  • Lead Dislodgement: ICD leads can sometimes become dislodged from the heart muscle. This can cause the ICD to malfunction.
  • Allergic Reaction: Some people may have an allergic reaction to the ICD leads.


ICDs are effective devices for treating abnormal heart rhythms. ICD leads are typically placed in the left ventricle, right ventricle, or coronary sinus. The insertion procedure is relatively low-risk and the devices are generally well-tolerated.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How long do ICD leads last?

ICD leads typically last for 5 to 10 years. However, the lifespan of the leads can vary depending on the type of ICD and the patient's individual health.

2. What are the symptoms of ICD lead problems?

Symptoms of ICD lead problems can include chest pain, shortness of breath, lightheadedness, dizziness, or fainting.

3. How are ICD lead problems treated?

Treatment for ICD lead problems depends on the specific problem. In some cases, the leads may need to be replaced.

4. Can ICD leads be removed?

ICD leads can be removed if necessary. The removal procedure is typically performed in a hospital.

5. What is the success rate of ICD lead implantation?

The success rate of ICD lead implantation is very high. The vast majority of patients who receive an ICD have successful outcomes.

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