ICD deactivation: your questions answered

Implantable cardioverter defibrillator

We answer common questions about turning off an implantable cardioverter defibrillator, and tell you how to find out more.

What does deactivation of my ICD mean?

The shock function of the ICD is turned off.

Who decides when to turn off my ICD?

It is usually a joint decision involving you and your healthcare team. Occasionally, your doctor will need to make the decision to deactivate your ICD urgently to maintain your comfort and dignity.

If you are not in a position to discuss your wishes then a conversation will occur between your next of kin and the doctors in charge of your care.

How is my ICD deactivated?

A cardiac physiologist will place a doughnut-shaped programming device over the ICD and alter the settings on a computer to turn off the ICD’s shocking capability. It is simple and painless.

Will I die immediately when the ICD is switched off?

No. The ICD only functions to treat any life-threatening interruptions in heart rhythm as they arise. It doesn’t keep you alive on a day-to-day basis.

Will I have a more painful death if my ICD is deactivated?

No, you should have a more comfortable death without experiencing painful and distressing shocks unnecessarily.

Can my ICD be turned back on if the situation later changes?

Yes. Very occasionally it may be appropriate to turn the ICD back on. This is also a simple, painless process.

Read our feature on ICDs and end of life.

 

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