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Kardiol Pol. 2008 Oct;66(10):1050-8; discussion 1059-60.

Psychological and clinical problems in young adults with implantable cardioverter-defibrillators.

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  • 1Institute of Cardiology, 2nd Coronary Artery Disease Department, Warsaw, tel, Poland.



Implantable cardioverter-defibrillators (ICD) are the most effective treatment in patients with the risk of sudden cardiac death. ICD improves patients' safety but is also the source of numerous inconveniences. Especially young people consider such ICD-related inconveniences as most unwelcome.


To assess the quality of life and main psychological problems encountered in young adults with an ICD.


We studied 45 subjects aged 14-29 years (mean 21.2+/-4.3). ICDs were used in primary prevention in 22 patients, and in secondary prevention in 23 patients. Time elapsed from implantation ranged from 5 months to 11 years (4.3+/-2.7 years). Since the problems affecting this group were rather specific, the patients' quality of life was assessed with a special questionnaire addressing important issues and problems associated with living with an ICD.


ICD discharges were observed in 67.4% of patients (primary prevention - 45.5%, secondary prevention - 82.6%), multiple shocks in 47.2%, and phantom shocks in 21.4%. Anxiety associated with an ICD discharge was reported by 84.4% of patients. In order to prevent ICD discharges, 53.3% of patients decreased their activity. Problems with memory were observed in 42.2% of patients, with concentration in 47.6%, and with sleep in 42.2%. Almost half of those over 18 years of age were active drivers. None of the subjects experienced an ICD discharge during sexual intercourse. None of the men reported any sexual problems, while seven (41.2%) women did. Almost a quarter of the patients claimed to have had complications after the implantation. Young adult patients generally were compliant to have their ICD checked and accepted their limitations and disease. Fewer people assessed their health status as bad. Some patients in the group studied found it extremely difficult to accept their disease and/or ICD and to adapt to the situation. As many as nine patients believed the ICD implantation had been unnecessary, seven did not accept the ICD, three patients thought negatively of follow-up visits, three were not compliant, 13 did not accept the limitations, four refused to accept the fact that their disease existed, and seven refused to do anything. At least four patients talked or thought about having the ICD removed.


Patients with ICD have problems in different spheres of their activity (physical, psychological, and social). Such patients need to be informed appropriately about the ICD itself and its functioning. They should be granted psychological support from health professionals who are familiar with the specific problems of ICD recipients.

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