UMEM Educational Pearls

Category: Cardiology

Title: RSI of the patient with an ICD

Keywords: implantable cardioverter defibrillator, AICD, ICD, succinylcholine, intubation (PubMed Search)

Posted: 4/6/2008 by Amal Mattu, MD (Updated: 8/11/2022)
Click here to contact Amal Mattu, MD


If a patient with an implantable cardioverter defibrillator needs to receive a paralytic for rapid sequence intubation, succinylcholine alone is not the best choice. The muscle fasciculations sometimes produced by succ can cause enough electrocardiographic artifact that inappropriate discharges of the ICD can occur.

Therefore, giving defasciculating doses of a paralytic before administering succ is recommended. Alternatively, use a nondepolarizing paralytic. Give 'em the rock!
Yet another reason to go with rocuronium.


Dr. Ron Walls and colleagues emailed me about the pearl above, which was adapted from an article in AJEM [McMullan J, Valento M, Attari M, Venkat A. Care of the pacemaker/implantable cardioverter defibrillator patient in the ED. Am J Emerg Med 2007;25:812-822.]

The authors of the AJEM article reference another article for the statement [Stone KR, McPherson CA. Assessment and management of patients with pacemakers and implantable cardioverter defibrillators. Crit Care med 2004;32(4)Suppl:S155-S165.]. The CCM article actually states that SCH-induced fasciculations may cause artifact which may cause problems with some pacemakers, not ICDs. So it appears that there is no reported problem in using SCH in patients with ICDs. Sorry for the confusion.