BACKGROUND: Implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) shocks terminate potentially life-threatening arrhythmias and may alter patient behavior. Patients are aware of which activities they have the ability to perform, but they may choose to avoid these behaviors after receiving a shock. This study examined ICD patient ability and avoidance of progressively exertive behaviors.
METHODS: ICD patients (N = 443) across the United States were surveyed using an online measure including the 12-item Duke Activity Status Index.
RESULTS: As expected, many patients reported being unable to participate in more physically exertive activities such as strenuous athletic exertion (68.8%), sex (35.4%), and running a short distance (49.0%). Avoidance rates were also relatively high, as patients who reported being able to participate in these activities also reported avoiding them (ie, strenuous athletics, 76.1%). Similarly, the majority of patients reported ability to engage in sexual activity (64.6%) but many chose to avoid sexual activity (51.0%). Multiple reasons were reported for avoidance, including fear of shock, fear of heart rate increase, doctor instruction, no desire, and an “other” option.
CONCLUSION: Many ICD patients experience behavioral limitations because of both a perceived inability and preference to avoid exertive activities, and possibly a prescription to do so, particularly strenuous athletic exertion. Clinical and research attention to ICD patient activity levels and reasons for avoidance may improve daily functioning and help patients return to preimplant levels of activity.