ICD shock while driving

I had my ICD for almost 9 months and I took a full time WFH job to minimize my driving. I haven't had any shocks or ATP so far (knock on wood).Just wondering how it feels when you get a shock while driving? Do you feel any symptoms which will give you some time like 30 secs to a minute so that you can pull over? If there are no warning signs and you get a shock, can you control the vehicle ? This is the one thing I am most scared about while driving my daugther and mom (they both cant drive).


ICD shocks

by Gemita - 2021-12-12 07:13:06

Hello SeenU302,

Unfortunately there is no way of knowing what you may feel because each situation will be different.  Have a look again at the link below from other Pacemaker Club members.

I would imagine it would not perhaps only be the shock itself but the rhythm disturbance present that would determine whether or not you would lose control while driving?  

An ICD I believe has a method of trying to “pace you out” of a ventricular arrhythmia before you are actually shocked, so a sudden speeding up of your heart for example, could be an early warning sign of an impending shock.  However, I see that you had ‘asymptomatic’ sustained VT before you got your pacemaker/ICD so perhaps you wouldn’t even recognise this early ICD warning sign?  I would imagine too the most important consideration would be to manage your VT well with meds to prevent it from occurring in the first place and thereby preventing any unnecessary shocks.  Have you asked your Cardiologist/EP this question?  I would recommend having a meaningful discussion with your doctors on this important subject.

I do not have an ICD but I still “rarely” get pre-syncope/syncope episodes with my pacemaker due to my arrhythmias and other health conditions, some of which cannot be controlled by a pacemaker.  I chose to stop driving a few years ago because I lost confidence.  I usually get a warning of an impending loss of consciousness so that I can get to a place of safety.   I can usually sense a strong sinking feeling in my epigastric region prior to a tachy arrhythmia like non sustained VT, irregular AF or regular Atrial Flutter, so this gives me time to sit or lie down, not so easy when out of course.

I wish you well and would advise you listen to your body for any unusual warning signs and take immediate action to keep you and the family safe.  And try not to overthink any of this.  Stress will quickly lead to worsening rhythm disturbances making an ICD shock more likely to occur.



by Tracey_E - 2021-12-14 10:15:47

Many people get warning.

Some people report shocks that they feel but they continue to function.

Ask your doctor, but if he/she was worried, they'd have notified the DMV and your license would be suspended. They are required by law to do that if a person is at risk.


Varies by settings....

by BOBTHOM - 2022-01-02 11:22:57

First if you follow the link Gemita posted you'll see several of us have had different experiences.  Part of that may be because each device can be set up to react differently.  In my case, if it detects VTAC it tries to pace me while charging, which I feel and takes about 5 seconds, then delivers a 25J shock, if not resolved a 35J shock up to 5 times as needed. I feel it as it's spinning up and have those 5 seconds to pull over.  Keep in mind average resting heart beat is 60 to 80 beats per minute, that's just at or over 1 beat per second or more if in VTAC, in my case it's set to react when over 208 beats per minute are detected.  They're generally programmed to react within a few to several heart beats.

These settings are based on your EP's recomendation, usually set to some standard level, my understanding is something like Factory default, Country default, Region or State, then hospital or hospital group, then cardiologist preferences, then patient specific. 

Get a copy of the report for your device, try to read through it, ask questions for anything you don't understand. My report comes with an event list which I review along side my diary to help me understand what may trigger an event so that I can try to avoid it.

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