Key Takeaways

    • A WCD can offer temporary protection from cardiac arrest.  
    • Most activities are allowed with a WCD.  
    • Keep contact information handy for when you or your loved one have questions or concerns.
What are wearable defibrillators?

Some survivors may need temporary protection from cardiac arrest when they go home from the hospital. A wearable cardioverter-defibrillator (WCD) may be recommended.

What is a WCD? 

A WCD is worn on the body underneath clothing. Unlike an AED, this does not require another person to use it in case of cardiac arrest. 

Unlike an ICD, this does not require surgery. It is temporary and can be removed when no longer needed. A WCD can allow your loved one to leave the hospital and spend time alone while being protected in case of recurrence.

Who might get one? 

A WCD may be given to people temporarily at increased risk of cardiac arrest. Examples are situations where doctors want to allow time for the heart to recover or to see if other treatments are working. They would usually only be worn for a short period – weeks to months. After this time, longer-term decisions can be made. This may mean getting an implanted device like an ICD, in some cases. Remember all medical situations are different. Your loved one’s care team can explain why a WCD may make sense for them.

Options for WCDs

There are a few companies that make WCDs. Your loved one’s doctors may recommend one or they may be presented with choices. You and your loved one can learn more about the different options here:  


WCDs are covered by insurance if your loved one’s doctor considers it necessary, but insurance coverage can be difficult to navigate. On their insurance plan, a WCD may fall under the category of “Durable Medical Equipment.” There is usually a monthly cost until your loved one returns the WCD to the device company.    

After the doctor recommends your loved one wear a WCD, a representative from the company will be available to talk to them along with you and other trusted family members. They can show you and your loved one the WCD, answer questions, and be good resources for navigating insurance coverage.

Living with a WCD

Despite the peace of mind you get from knowing your loved one is protected in case of another life-threatening arrhythmia, the WCD does have some limitations. The device must be fitted to each patient and may not fit all body types well. It cannot function as a pacemaker and requires daily care and upkeep. Your loved one will need to learn how to respond to alerts. The device must be removed for bathing, but no protection is afforded while the device is off. Therefore, it is advisable that caregivers or other persons be nearby during these periods when the WCD is not worn. Comfort may also be an issue for some people due to the size and weight of the device.

Know who to contact

Keep contact information handy for your loved one’s care team and for the WCD company, for questions and concerns that come up. You and your survivor may also be able to find answers from the materials provided or on the company website.

Thank you to our contributors

Jasmine Wylie & Fran Lesicko

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