AICD (Medical Abbreviation): Definition, Indications & Placement

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  • 0:03 What Is an AICD?
  • 1:10 Arrhythmia and Defibrillation
  • 2:38 Placement of the AICD
  • 4:01 Lesson Summary
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Instructor: Meghan Greenwood

Meghan has taught undergraduate and graduate level science courses and has a PhD in Immunology.

This lesson describes what an AICD is and how it can be helpful for patients at risk of cardiac events. Learn more about this life-saving device, including just how safe and easy it is to insert!

What Is an AICD?

Think of the last time you walked up the stairs. Or, if you exercise, how you felt after a short run on the treadmill. It is likely that your heart was beating faster even before you started moving. Now, imagine that your heartbeat was trailing behind your intensity. Maybe instead the opposite was happening too: a low intensity workout pushing your heartbeat to a disturbingly high level. If this type of cardiac activity continues and the doctor diagnoses you with an abnormality, you may need surgery. Such instances can be alarming, but thankfully, technology is available to help control your heartbeat.

An automatic implantable cardioverter defibrillator (AICD) is a small device, made up of a wire and body, used to continuously check your heartbeat. AICDs are extraordinary machines designed to help the pace of the heart and to deliver a shock, if needed. Overall, such devices can speed up or slow down your heart rate, with the ultimate goal of keeping your heartbeat as normal as possible.

Arrhythmia and Defibrillation

Think again of that instance when your heart sped up after a low intensity workout. It is likely that, after a few seconds, your heartbeat returned to normal. However, what if it did not stabilize, or it seemed to be beating at an aberrant interval? Irregular heartbeat is described as an arrhythmia, an abnormal rhythm of the heart (just remember 'a' for 'arrhythmia' and 'abnormal'). AICDs are one of the methods used to treat arrhythmia. Unlike a pacemaker that continuously controls heart rate, an AICD is a sensor, monitoring your heartbeat for any inconsistencies.

The AICD can function in two main ways: providing low impulses to return the heart to a normal beating rate or delivering high-intensity shocks to protect against cardiac arrest. The intense shocks are called defibrillation and are meant to jolt the heart back into a normal rhythm. Think of Frankenstein when he was shocked to life. Often, this procedure can be lifesaving.

AICDs are normally given to patients with a high risk of a life-threatening cardiac event. For example, if you have already suffered from a heart attack, an AICD may be recommended. Additionally, if you have congenital heart disease or other heart-related syndromes, your doctor may suggest the device. No matter the reason, AICDs are a backup to your heart, providing a cushion in case of an emergency.

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