Recommendations for Drivers with Implanted Defibrillators

Recommendations for Drivers with Implanted Defibrillators

Reported June 23, 2009

(Ivanhoe Newswire) — A task force of twelve cardiovascular experts is setting limitations for drivers with Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillators (ICDs).

Patients with ICDs have an ongoing risk of sudden incapacitation, which could cause great harm if it happens while they are driving a car. The imposition of driving restrictions makes these recommendations an important guideline for patients.

“Driving restrictions vary across different countries in Europe. We hope the document may serve as an instrument for European and National regulatory authorities to formulate uniform driving regulations,” Johan Vijgen, chairperson of the task force was quoted as saying.

“Driving restrictions are . . .difficult for patients and their families and have an immediate consequence for their lifestyle. In addition to the psychological and societal impact, the driving ban may also pose a considerable impact on employment and education and thereby [upon] economic status,” said Vijgen.



Since the introduction of the ICD in the early 1980s, multiple trials have demonstrated the efficacy of ICDs for the prevention of sudden arrhythmic death, resulting in a significant increase in the number of implants. In Western Europe alone, 63,000 ICDs were implanted in 2006 and 85,500 ICDs in 2008.

The recommendations for driving restrictions draw the distinction between patients who are implanted for primary prevention–those who are at risk for life-threatening arrhythmias but who have never actually experienced them—and those who are implanted for secondary prevention, who have survived a life-threatening arrhythmia. Recommended restrictions are less stringent for the primary prevention group and stronger for the secondary prevention group.

“Patients and their families should receive adequate discharge education and standardized information on driving recommendations,” explained Professor Vijgen. “It should be emphasized that the risk is mainly a consequence of the underlying condition and not of the presence of the ICD.”

SOURCE: Europace, the official journal of the European Heart Rhythm Association, June 21, 2009