Strategies to decrease sudden cardiac death in patients with left ventricular systolic dysfunction are evolving. Recent clinical trials have evaluated the role of prophylactic implantable cardioverter-defibrillators (ICDs) in patients with and without additional risk stratifiers. We pooled studies comparing treatment with and without ICDs from published data and presented abstracts, irrespective of QRS duration and etiology of systolic dysfunction. On the basis of the available clinical trials, implantation of an ICD for primary prevention of death provides a 7.9% absolute mortality reduction (p = 0.003) in patients with left ventricular (LV) systolic dysfunction who were receiving optimized medical therapy. This finding was not sensitive to the exclusion of any individual trial. The ICD is an effective primary preventative measure in patients who are at risk for death; however, the application of this therapy needs to be individualized for the patient, similar to drug therapies in LV systolic dysfunction. In health care settings without unlimited resources, optimal use of this therapy will require better risk stratification methods or lowering of the initial device cost. © 2004 by the American College of Cardiology Foundation.