The Latest on Anxiety and Implanted Defibrillators

Disclaimer: Results are not guaranteed*** and may vary from person to person***.

Some people who’ve had an “implantable cardioverter defibrillator” (ICD) placed inside their bodies can experience more than just a positive physical effect. It can actually cause high levels of anxiety and fear in certain patients. To understand why, you must first have an idea of how this device works.

 An ICD is placed surgically inside a patient who has heart- rhythm problems, with a wire leading to the heart. Battery- powered, it monitors your heartbeat and, if the rhythm is too fast or irregular, the device sends an electric shock to the organ. This stimulates the heart back into a normal rhythm. An ICD can feel like being kicked in the chest, while a mild pulse might not even be detectable.

 Because of the nature of this device, certain ICD patients have a whole lot of worries to contend with. Some worry that vigorous activity will trigger the device, while others are concerned that an ICD jolt might injure another person in close proximity, or even just draw attention to them in social situations.

 Some ICD patients are scared of what will occur when the gadget simply does its job — just the thought of an electrical shock is worrisome — or are anxious about what will happen if it goes off while they’re driving alone.

 To figure out which patients might need some counseling to help them deal with their fears, researchers from the University of Florida in Gainesville have developed a new assessment tool. The “Florida Shock Anxiety Scale” (FSAS) is a written questionnaire that basically has people with ICDs rate how often they have certain thoughts, such as, “I am afraid to touch others for fear that I will shock them if the ICD fires?”

 To see if it was effective, the FSAS was tested on 72 ICD patients — and it proved very reliable in determining their anxiety levels. This is a great tool that doctors can use to make sure that the ICD patients who need psychological help in dealing with their emotions after having the device implanted get it. After all, the last thing a heart patient needs is more stress and anxiety!