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Home > Health Library > Turning Off Your ICD
An ICD is always checking your heart for a life-threatening, rapid heart rhythm. The ICD may try to slow the rhythm back to normal using electrical pulses. If the dangerous rhythm doesn't stop, the ICD sends an electric shock to the heart. This restores a normal rhythm. The device then goes back to its watchful mode.
Your doctor will program the ICD to send electrical pulses or a shock when needed.
You may want to consider turning off your ICD if your health goal changes from living longer to getting the most comfort possible at the end of life.
Even though an ICD can help fix heart rate or rhythm problems, you may not want this at the end of life. The shocks the ICD delivers are painful. Not being shocked may make you more comfortable.
As you plan for your future and your end of life, include plans for your ICD. Your decision about your ICD can be included in your treatment plan. And you can put this information in your advance directive.
Turning off your ICD is legal. It isn't considered suicide. The decision to leave on or turn off your ICD is a medical decision you make based on your values.
Your ICD can be turned off by your doctor. They will use a computer to reprogram it so that it doesn't give you shocks.
This procedure isn't hard or painful. The ICD isn't taken out of your chest, and you don't need surgery. Turning off the ICD won't cause death, and it won't make you feel worse. But because the ICD won't give you a shock if you have a life-threatening heart rhythm, this type of heart rhythm could lead to death.
If you change your mind, the ICD can be turned back on.
Some ICDs are combined with a pacemaker. You can turn off the ICD without turning off the pacemaker. Your doctor can explain how your pacemaker might affect you at the end of your life.
Many things can help you decide to leave on or turn off your ICD. It can be a tough decision. But it is yours to make. You don't have to do it alone. Look to your family, your doctor, your spiritual advisor, and your friends for help and support.
Things to think about:
Current as of:
January 10, 2022
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: Kathleen Romito MD - Family MedicineMartin J. Gabica MD - Family MedicineAdam Husney MD - Family MedicineJohn M. Miller MD, FACC - Cardiology, Electrophysiology
Current as of: January 10, 2022
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine & Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine & Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & John M. Miller MD, FACC - Cardiology, Electrophysiology
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