Recollection of pain due to inappropriate versus appropriate implantable cardioverter-defibrillator shocks

Pacing Clin Electrophysiol. 2011 Mar;34(3):348-53. doi: 10.1111/j.1540-8159.2010.02971.x. Epub 2010 Nov 15.


Background: Although inappropriate shocks are known to be an important consequence of implantable cardioverter-defibrillators (ICDs), the subjective experience of pain intensity perceived by those receiving inappropriate versus appropriate shocks has not previously been examined.

Methods: One hundred ICD patients underwent a standardized interview by an investigator blinded to the clinical history. Patients with a previous ICD shock were asked to describe the intensity of the associated pain on a standard 0-10 scale (10 being the worst pain they had ever experienced). Medical charts were then examined for any history of inappropriate and/or appropriate ICD discharges.

Results: Thirty-five of the 100 patients had a record of at least one ICD shock, and 17 had experienced at least one inappropriate shock. Those with a history of an inappropriate shock described a significantly higher median pain scale (9, interquartile range [IQR] 8-10) compared to those with a history of only appropriate shocks (median 4, IQR 2-8, P = 0.0011). In multivariable analysis, a history of an inappropriate shock was the only predictor statistically significantly associated with an increase in shock pain: the pain scale for those with inappropriate shocks was higher by 2.8 points on average after multivariable adjustment (95% confidence interval 0.29-5, P = 0.030). Eighteen patients had considered having their device deactivated, and a history of an inappropriate shock was the only factor independently associated with this consideration.

Conclusions: Compared to those who have received only appropriate shocks, inappropriate ICD shocks are associated with a recollection of greater pain and consideration of device inactivation.

Publication types

  • Controlled Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • California / epidemiology
  • Comorbidity
  • Defibrillators, Implantable / statistics & numerical data*
  • Electric Injuries / epidemiology*
  • Equipment Failure / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pain / epidemiology*
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors