In addition to its beneficial effect on patient survival, the implanted cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) changes a patient's life physically, socially, and psychologically. For improved patient management, it is important to understand the quality-of-life changes that accompany this mode of treatment. To this end, 119 patients were surveyed retrospectively and interviewed concurrently regarding their emotional, physical, and behavioral responses to ICD shocks and to the device itself. Most (55%) correctly estimated the total number of shocks they had received within a 10% margin. They found the shocks severe, 79% assigning a score between 3 and 5 on a scale of 1-5. Common descriptions of the shock sensation were a blow to the body or a spasm causing the entire body to jump. Most patients tolerated the shocks as lifesaving, but 23% dreaded shocks and 5% even said they would rather be without the ICD and take their chances. After a shock, 50% of patients called their physician and 42% continued their daily routine. Thirty percent went to a hospital emergency room or called a rescue service. Sixty-five percent had no preshock prodromes. Fifty-four percent were interested in the programmable option of a warning signal prior to a shock, while 31% preferred no warning. Of the 74% who were advised not to drive after implantation, 29% drove anyway. Five patients were shocked while driving with no resulting accidents. We conclude that most patients find ICD shocks moderately uncomfortable, but they tolerate them because of the lifesaving protection provided by the device.