Implantation of defibrillators

Implantation of defibrillators

Die Defibrillatoren-Implantation dient der Vermeidung gefährlicher Rhythmusstörungen und kann vor dem plötzlichen Herztod schützen. Unsere Experten können helfen.

The type of defibrillator which is implanted is usually an ICD implant (implantable cardioverter defibrillator). This helps to prevent dangerous cardiac arrhythmia, and can even protect you against sudden cardiac arrest.

In the Department of Rhythmology, we implant 500 pacemakers, 350 defibrillators and ca. 250 devices for cardiac resynchronization therapy every year in patients with heart failure; sometimes we do this in collaboration with the hospital's heart surgeons, depending on the individual needs of the patient. The Heart Center also specializes in the removal of infected or defective units or electrodes.

Unlike pacemakers, defibrillators only provide a vital shock to the heart in an emergency. This electric shock ensures that a heart which is out of sync starts beating properly again. We implant defibrillators in patients with:

  • ventricular fibrillation
  • ventricular arrhythmia
  • severe cardiac insufficiency.

We treat patients with congenital heart defects, such as cardiac arrhythmia or myocardial insufficiency, in close consultation with our specialist colleagues in the field of pediatric cardiology, but we also look after patients with acquired heart defects or cardiac arrhythmia.

[Translate to Englisch:] Einsicht ins EPU-Labor bei einem Eingriff im Herzzentrum Leipzig

If you are a viable candidate for defibrillator implantation, you should not have any concerns about the intervention. It usually takes less than an hour, and you will not require a general anesthetic.

  • After making a very small incision in the skin, our specialist doctors pass leads through a vein to your heart. Once they reach their destination, the leads are anchored under constant X-ray monitoring.
  • The defibrillator is then positioned below the clavicle, and the leads are fixed to the pectoral muscle.
  • The defibrillator is tested to ensure it is functioning correctly. The insertion point is then sutured.
  • Once the procedure has been successfully completed, you will have to spend about a week in the clinic.
  • During this time, we will check the system several times to ensure it is working properly, and will satisfy ourselves that everything has been perfectly adapted to your needs.
  • For the following three months, you should refrain from lifting your left arm by more than 90 degrees, so that the defibrillator and sensors can be properly incorporated into your body.
  • We will also ask you to attend check-ups every three to six months so that our specialists can check that the implant is working properly.

Unscheduled check-ups may be necessary if

  • you become aware of an irregular heartbeat,
  • you suffer a recurrence of cardiac insufficiency,
  • the ICD is shocking your heart when it shouldn't, or
  • there are indications that the device may have become infected.

If any of this applies to you, you should contact the Department of Rhythmology at the Heart Center Leipzig without delay. Either you, a friend or a family member should first call the secretary's office.

Driving a vehicle:

Generally speaking, being implanted with a defibrillator will not prohibit you from driving a regular car. However, you will often no longer be allowed to drive a bus or truck following its implantation. This may cause problems for professional drivers in particular.


If you are fitted with an internal defibrillator, various treatment options which use electric current will no longer be available to you, such as an MRT scan. These treatments would impair the functioning of the defibrillator, and consequently put you at risk.


Completely subcutaneous defibrillators (which are implanted directly under the skin) have provided an alternative to conventional transvenous devices in the last few years. These are designed to minimize the complications which can arise during implantation and in the long term. Since 2012, we have also been implanting this new type of defibrillator here at the Heart Center. The Department of Rhythmology is also taking part in a comparative study to assess the advantages and limitations of the two ICD systems.

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