Study Says OK to Resume Sexual Activity after Heart Defibrillator Implant

NOVEMBER 09, 2015
Amy Jacob
The significant others of patients undergoing implantable cardiac defibrillators (ICDs) have long been concerned about continuing sexual activity following the implantation.
Cynthia Dougherty, ARNP, PhD, professor of nursing at the University of Washington School of Nursing, Seattle, WA, presented research at the American Heart Association (AHA) 2015 Scientific Sessions.
Research confirmed most patients with ICDs would be safe to resume sexual activity once the surgical sites were healed.
Dougherty and team conducted a study involving 105 sexually active couples who were required to answer a survey immediately after being discharged following the ICD implant procedure and again three months later.
According to the survey, the participants’ primary concerns included lack of interest in sex, worrying about ICD discharge during sex, and fearing cardiac arrest due to device malfunction mid sex.
By three months; however, the reseachers found a gradual decline in levels of concern – nearly 50% of partners no longer feared the patients’ hearts would stop, and approximately two-thirds of the survey participants stopped worrying the ICD would inadvertently trigger a cardiac shock.
Dougherty remarked, “We can’t just focus on the patient. As intimate partner’s level of comfort is also important for recovery, and their concerns warrant attention from healthcare providers.” 
While sexual concerns aren’t often addressed by the provider, even basic discussions would tremendously alleviate any of the patients’ and their partners’ fears. “This is an issue that patients are often reluctant to discuss and sometimes providers don’t initiate these discussions as part of routine practice. But it shouldn’t be taboo subject.”

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