ICD and Anxiety.

GwentDefibbers had the opportunity to meet with Professor Paul Bennett at the December group meeting which took place in St Woolos hospital, Newport.

Professor Bennett works with the Department of Psychology at Swansea University and we thank him for coming to chat with our group.

He has a particular interest in individuals who have an Implantable Cardioverter  Defibrillator (ICD) in place and especially with those who suffer anxiety and increased stress because of heart health and implanted cardiac device.

Pictured with Sandra and Mike is Professor Paul Bennett.



To ENLARGE click on image.

The professor explained that his team were trying to identify common causes of anxiety and questions that individuals might ask pre and post ICD implant so that eventually an appropriate information leaflet/booklet could be produced.

It had been noted by many in the group that although the available booklets gave a broad overview of the device the real ‘nitty gritty’ questions that were uppermost in people’s mind were frequently left unanswered. Many people in the group thought that the booklets were too technical.

The meeting was intended as a 2 way process and individuals were encouraged to ask questions. Some questions and answers included…..

Group member 1– described his collapse, admission to hospital, investigations including constant monitoring on the ward, then receiving the ICD implant only to then ‘suddenly’  be released back out in to his normal environment. He described feeling very alone and scared. His partner described how she felt great weight of responsibility for him.

The Professor referred to a study whereby a group participated in treadmill exercise and this was observed by the partner(s). This helped the partner(s) appreciate what the other was actually capable of doing and feedback was positive. This demonstrates the importance of encouraging family / friends to participate in the rehabilitation programme.

Group member 2 –  described suffering horrendous panic attacks. The sensations of panic were similar to the feelings experienced prior to his ICD firing.  He was unable to differentiate between the two and desperately asked for help.

The Professor explained about hyperventilation / over breathing that although it can feel as if you don’t have enough oxygen, the opposite is true. He informed us of a simple exercise which would help counteract hyperventilation which was to Breathe in and out of a paper bag. This would cause you to re-inhale the carbon dioxide that you exhaled thus help to relieve the effects of the panic attack.

Another exercise is a ‘belly breathing exercise’ …

   Place one hand on your chest & the other hand on your stomach.

  1. Sit comfortably, with your knees bent and your shoulders, head and neck relaxed.
  2. Breathe in slowly through your nose so that your stomach moves out against your hand. The hand on your chest should remain as still as possible.
  3. Tighten your stomach muscles, letting them fall inward as you exhale through pursed lips. The hand on your upper chest must remain as still as possible.

Group member 3 – had only had his ICD within the past few weeks and was extremely anxious about what he could/could not do.  He was particularly nervous in case the slightest exertion would cause the device to fire.

Mike explained to him about the ‘trigger rate’  that his device was set at and was only likely to fire if it was in that zone. He was reassured by this chat and this is a reminder that ICD recipients can frequently find reassurance with members who experience the same fears as themselves.

And finally…..

The Professor briefly discussed a mind-body approach to well being which can help to reduce anxiety and stress. The technique is called ‘mindfulness’ and I enclose a link which offers a lot of information at http://bemindful.co.uk/

Professor Bennett explained about various studies that had been undertaken regarding stress and cardiac disease.  He appreciated that many patients found numerous questionnaires tiresome but hopefully all this research would eventually offer very positive results for people like us or those in similar situations.

If anybody would like to know more about the research that is being undertaken or who would like the opportunity to participate in a study then please contact the Professor at –

Professor Paul Bennett, Department of Psychology, College of Human and Health Sciences, Vivian Tower, Swansea University, Swansea SA2 8PP, United Kingdom.

Telephone: (01792) 606830

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My ICD battery / box change…

Written by a support group member

A little while back I had to have my ICD battery / box changed and so I thought I might share my experiences…..



I never used to be like this, in real life I’m bright and breezy but since my heart rhythm problem manifested itself I’ve found that the slightest change in my health triggers alarm bells and I start to panic….

I find the ICD check up an unpleasant experience.

It only takes a few minutes for the Physiologists to run their checks but it always makes me feel vulnerable.

The ICD checks are important. The team are able to monitor heart health and viability of the device.

It was at one such visit that I was told that the battery was running low and I would require a box change, consequently I could expect to receive a hospital letter within a few weeks to arrange a pre-op check and admission date to the day hospital.

Ridiculous but I had a horrible thought that the battery would go flat before any appointment had been made!

A week or two later my letter arrived and I made my way to the day unit.

The nurse that I had contact with was lovely. He talked me through what might be expected on the day. My temperature, blood pressure, pulse and  bloods were also obtained. They were aware of my medications and I was advised about whether or not I could take them on the day.

All I could think of after that appointment was that I wanted to get the procedure over and done with as quickly as possible.

The big day arrived and after a light breakfast I travelled to the day clinic. The department was very busy and bed shortages meant that some patients had to return home, luckily I was allocated a bed, introduced to the nurse who would be taking care of me and then had a visit from the doctor who explained the pro’s and con’s of a device change after which I signed the consent form.

Before my visit to theatre I received an intravenous antibiotic infusion and this was administered to minimise the potential risk of infection….

My feet are always cold!!

I recalled that before I underwent an angiogram a few years previously I was warned me that the theatre would feel cold and if it made me more comfortable I could wear my bed socks!!!

Such a little thing – but what a difference!

I’m glad to say that I remembered that bit of advice and I’m really glad that I did. The theatre did feel very cold and the bed socks were very welcome.

The staff, as always, were fantastic. The worst bit for me was having to lie flat on the trolley. The fact is though that there was so much activity going on around me I didn’t really have time to fret.

Those meds are just sooo relaxing……

image copied from puffun.com


Next thing I recall is arriving back on the unit and enjoying a well sweetened cup of tea without a care in the world.

A short while later the Physiologist came down with the little machine to check that everything was OK and I was allowed home.

Apart from feeling that I had a small egg stuck in my chest I felt great and within 2- 3 days was definitely back to my normal self. My wound which was an extension of my original wound healed very quickly……

I’m sure that I will experience the same anxiety next time…..but it does good to share and if anyone out there has similar experiences please let us know.

REMEMBER…There are a number of signs and symptoms associated with anxiety and the British Heart Foundation (BHF) can offer advice via leaflet to help you cope with these feelings as can your GP and / or ICD nurse specialist.