Sudden cardiac death (SCD) is responsible for 300,000 deaths annually. Lethal ventricular dysrhythmias account for the majority of SCDs. Implantable cardioverter-defibrillators (ICDs) are the emerging treatment for lethal dysrhythmias. Although reductions in SCD mortality with ICDs are clear, the psychologic and social consequences of these devices reveal a mixed success. Patients with ICDs have high levels of anxiety and depressive symptoms. Conversely, most studies of quality of life in patients with ICDs report that the device is well accepted despite fears of being shocked. The ICD shocks are a unique aspect of treatment and have the potential to cause psychologic distress. Nursing needs to provide care from a holistic perspective. Support groups provide reassurance and allow patients to discuss expectations and fears related to the ICD. Research needs to be conducted to explore the impact of these devices on the lives of patients and their families.

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