Graduate School of Nursing Dissertations

Publication Date


Document Type

Dissertation, Doctoral


Graduate School of Nursing

Dissertation Committee Chair

Susan Sullivan-Bolyai


Defibrillators, Implantable, Quality of Life, Adult

Subject Categories

Equipment and Supplies | Medicine and Health | Nursing


Sudden cardiac death (SCD) is responsible for 300,000 deaths in the United States each year. Of these 300,000 deaths, 3,000-5,000 are younger adults (18-40 years) (American Heart Association (AHA), 2005; Sudden Arrhythmia Death Syndromes Foundation (SADS), 2005). Implanted cardioverter defibrillators have become the treatment of choice for individuals with life threatening arrhythmias (Cannom Prystowsky, 2004; Glikson & Friedman, 2001; Josephson, Hein, & Wellens, 2004). Although this life sustaining technology has been found to be effective in terminating life threatening arrhythmias, adjustment to an ICD may be difficult for some patients (Ganz, 2004). Few studies have investigated how younger adults manage life with an ICD (Sears, Burns, Handberg, Sotile, & Conti, 2001). It has been reported that older adults view the ICD as an extension of life, whereas, younger ICD recipients associate the ICD with significant life changes, body image concerns, and decreased independence (Arteaga & Windle, 1995).

The purpose of this study was to describe the day-to-day experiences of younger adults (18-40 years old) [N = 20] living with an implanted cardioverter defibrillator. A qualitative descriptive design was used with naturalistic inquiry guiding data collection, management, and analysis. Using open-ended, in-depth interviews, younger adults were asked to describe their life after ICD implantation, physiological or psychosocial issues related to ICD implantation, and strategies used to manage life with an ICD. Data were managed using NVIVO software and analyzed using content analysis. The results revealed an overarching theme, A cautious transition to a new normal, with five subthemes: Initial diagnosis: anxiety and concern; Caution, awareness, and security: daily life with an ICD; Childbearing: passing my disease to my children; Financial concerns; and Strategies for living with an ICD: be positive and live life to the fullest.

This study presented some of the unique developmental and transitional issues that younger adults with ICDs are facing and strategies they used to assist in adaptation to life with an ICD. Their experiences can provide the basis for intervention programs that are developmentally sensitive and age-specific.



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