Traveling with an Implantable Cardio Defibrillator (ICD)

An increasing number of Canadians are traveling with medical devices such as Implantable Cardio Defibrillators (ICDs).   Many travelers with heart conditions will be familiar with the ICD, which is used as a preventive device in heart patients.  These small devices are placed under the skin in the chest or abdomen, and are used by doctors to help treat irregular heartbeats called arrhythmias.  An ICD uses electrical pulses or shocks to help prevent sudden cardiac arrest, a condition in which the heart suddenly stops beating.

ICDs are similar to but different from Pacemakers, which only give off low-energy electrical pulses. They’re often used to treat less dangerous heart rhythms, such as those that occur in the upper chambers of the heart.  Most new ICDs can act as both pacemakers and defibrillators.

While ICDs are covered by general heart questions in most travel insurance questionnaires, they are also specifically addressed by some insurance companies.  In these cases, the insurance companies use ICDs to screen out candidates for insurance with an elevated risk of heart problems.  For example, Group Medical Services will not sell their travel plans to applicants with ICDs, though they will sell policies to applicants with Pacemakers.  On the other hand, the April Escapade Migrator policy is not available to travelers with either medical device.

If a policy does not specifically exclude travelers with ICDs, they must still take care to ensure that they will be covered for heart conditions.  Many Canadian travel policies cover illnesses related to or caused by pre-existing medical conditions provided that the pre-existing medical condition is stable.  A stable condition means one that has been unchanged for a certain period of time before travel, typically 90, 180 or 365 days.  Therefore, if you had a new ICD implanted or an ICD battery changed 150 days ago, you will not be stable and covered for heart conditions if your policy specifies a 180-day stability clause, but you will be stable and covered for these conditions if your policy specifies a 90-day stability clause.

At BestQuote, we are used to assisting clients with complex medical conditions.  As long as you are physically able to travel and have been given clearance to travel by your doctor, we can normally find an appropriate travel policy that will provide you with adequate coverage.

About the author

Vance Derban is a licensed insurance broker at BestQuote Travel Insurance Agency.  He can be reached at [email protected]