ICD and Exercise … New Advice


DALLAS, Texas. (Ivanhoe Newswire) People born with heart conditions can be treated with implantable cardioverter defibrillators or ICD’s, which send electric shocks to restimulate the heart. For years, these patients were told not to participate in sports. But now, a new study suggests the risk while exercising is very low, triggering some change in advice for patients.

Fifty-six-year-old Bobby Williams has congestive heart failure, and has been treated with an implantable defibrillator and a left ventricular assist device. Not long ago, doctors would have discouraged heavy exercise for this condition. Now, Bobby is encouraged to work out as hard as he wants.

“I feel like a bionic man sometimes. I feel great,” Williams told Ivanhoe.

Jay Franklin, MD, Clinical Electrophysiologist, Baylor Heart and Vascular Hospital explained, “It’s safe for patients to participate in vigorous athletics. And so it’s recommended that the physician and the patient work together but then in the majority of cases, individual patients can continue to exercise vigorously and participate in sports, even contact sports with safety, and  the patient’s not significantly at risk.” (Read Full Interview)

Implantable cardiac defibrillators do not prevent a life- threatening rhythm disturbance, but they prevent sudden death by sending an electric shock to correct the disturbance. Heavy exercise does not impede their function.

“I’ve been there since these devices were all we had every step of the way to where we now have incredibly sophisticated devices that come in a platform this size, which is amazing,” stated Dr. Franklin.

The LVAD, which operates on an external battery and regulates normal blood flow, will be removed if and when Bobby qualifies for a heart transplant, which is part of the reason he works out to get stronger.

“Stay active and you will win,” Williams said.

Any patient who has had any type of transplant or implantable device should consult with their doctor before beginning a vigorous exercise program.

Contributors to this news report include: Don Wall, Field Producer; Mark Montgomery, Videographer; Cyndy McGrath, Supervising Producer; Gabriella Battistiol, Assistant Producer; Roque Correa, Editor.

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REPORT:         MB #4342

BACKGROUND: Congestive heart failure or CHF affects the pumping power of the heart muscles. It is a chronic progressive condition, often referred to simply as heart failure. CHF refers to the stage where fluids build up around the heart and cause it to pump inefficiently. CHF develops when the ventricles can’t pump blood in sufficient volume to the body, and eventually blood and other fluids can also back up inside your lungs, lower body, abdomen, and liver. It can be life-threatening; seek immediate medical treatment if you suspect you or someone near you has CHF. Symptoms vary by stage, progression and other factors, but some include fatigue, palpitations and shortness of breath when physically active. At its later stages, the person may not be able to carry on any physical activity without these symptoms, and they can even be present at rest.

(Source: https://www.healthline.com/health/congestive-heart-failure#types2)

TREATMENT VIA ICD: Patients with congestive heart failure may be required to get an implantable cardioverter defibrillator or ICD. This is a battery-powered device placed under the skin that keeps track of a person’s heart rate. Thin wires also connect the ICD to the heart, and if an abnormal rhythm is detected the device will deliver an electric shock to restore a normal heartbeat. An ICD may also be recommended for patients with a history of ventricular arrhythmia or heart attack, those who have survived a sudden cardiac arrest, or long QT syndrome as well as brugada syndrome. Most likely a patient can return to a nearly normal lifestyle; however, a doctor will advise what kind of machines or equipment should be avoided, as well as limit physical activity for some.

(Source: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/Arrhythmia/PreventionTreatmentofArrhythmia/Implantable-Cardioverter-Defibrillator-ICD_UCM_448478_Article.jsp#.WfM7jFtSzDA)

NEW INFORMATION: For years patients with ICDs were recommended not to participate in sports and not engage in too much physical activity. Now, a new study suggests the risk while exercising is low, which is changing advice given to patients. It is safe for patients to participate in vigorous athletics, and recommended that patients and physicians work together to assess each patient’s needs and expectations. Even contact sports with the proper safety equipment may be fine. Working out may also help the patient get stronger if there is eventually a need for a heart transplant.

(Sources: https://news.yale.edu/2017/06/05/study-many-athletes-implantable-defibrillators-can-do-sports and Jay Franklin, MD)


Susan Hall


Jay Olen Franklin, MD, FACC, FHRS



If this story or any other Ivanhoe story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at mthomas@ivanhoe.com.

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