Background The effect of an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) in patients with symptomatic systolic heart failure (HF) caused by coronary artery disease is well documented. However, the effect of primary prophylactic ICDs in patients with systolic HF not due to coronary artery disease is much weaker. In addition, HF management has improved, since the landmark ICD trials and a large proportion of patients now receive cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT) where the effect of ICD treatment is unknown. Methods In the DANISH study, 1,116 patients with symptomatic systolic HF not caused by coronary artery disease have been randomized to receive an ICD or not, in addition to contemporary standard therapy. The primary outcome of the trial is time to all-cause death. Follow-up will continue until June 2016 with a median follow-up period of 5 years. Baseline characteristics show that enrolled patients are treated according to current guidelines. At baseline, 97% of patients received an angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitor or angiotensin receptor blocker, 92% received a β-blocker, 58% a mineralocorticoid receptor antagonist, and 58% were scheduled to receive CRT. Median age was 63 years (range, 21-84 years) at baseline, and 28% were women. Conclusion DANISH will provide pertinent information about the effect on all-cause mortality of a primary prophylactic ICD in patients with symptomatic systolic HF not caused by coronary artery disease on contemporary standard therapy including CRT.