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Difference Between ICD and Pacemaker

pacemakerICD vs Pacemaker

Statistically, the number one killer is Heart Disease. It is so deadly that we need a different kind of technology to help us to regulate our heart rate to prevent us from suddenly dropping dead ‘“ literally.

This time, it is not only pills and tablets anymore since pharmaceutical means of treating heart irregularities are just not enough. Heart disease sufferers require more than that. People had been using electrical mechanisms to prevent cardiac arrest. It has been more than a decade that the medical society has been implementing this technology to their patients. These mechanisms are called Pacemakers and Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillators (ICDs).

These devices are implanted in people to help them with their heart rate irregularities. However, Pacemakers and ICDs have distinct differences from each other. Pacemakers keep the heart from beating at a regular rate. They are usually used to keep the heart from beating too slow (bradycardia). They can consistently pace the heart into a favorable regular rhythm. Also, they can be adjusted depending on the condition of the patient and can only work if needed.

An ICD is implanted in a person mainly to prevent him/her from dying suddenly due ventricular fibrillation. It is a slightly bigger device than a pacemaker and with a distinct purpose. An ICD, per se, will only activate once it detects a life-threatening arrhythmia. It is more as an emergency device where it functions primarily to save lives.

Pacemakers aim to make the patients with sudden bouts of bradycardia feel better because when a person with a considerable decrease in heart rate suffers from becoming dizzy or light headed, and might pass out. ICDs, without pacing capabilities, still make people suffer the symptoms until the point of severe arrhythmia where an urgent need of ‘heart reset’ is called for.

Both devices use electric stimuli to transmit impulses to the heart to stimulate myocardial contraction. With new technological developments, they are easily programmable and significantly reliable. Although still available separately, ICDs and pacemakers are now combined to have both functions available when needed by patients.


1. ICDs stay inactive until it detects fibrillation of the heart thus it is activated only in urgent need while the pacemaker can consistently and continuously stimulates the heart electrically to beat in a regular rhythm.

2. Pacemakers are predominantly used to treat slow heart rhythms while ICDs are used for patients who are at risk of sudden cardiac death.

3. ICDs are slightly larger in size, and rather more advanced, compared to pacemakers.

4. Pacemakers aim more to make the patients feel better while ICDs ‘“ without bi-ventricular pacing capabilities ‘“ will not improve patients’ function because it will only act as protection from sudden cardiac arrest.

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1 Comment

  1. I have a St Jude two. lead pacemaker. It has recently starting chirping and I thought it was my cell phone caused by low battery. Last night it was so loud it woke my wife. The sound was caused by my pacemaker. Do I have a problem?

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