Complications of electric cardioversion are rare, and doctors can take steps to reduce your risk. Major risks of cardioversion include:

  • Dislodged blood clots. Some people who have arrhythmias have blood clots in their hearts. Electric cardioversion can cause these blood clots to move to other parts of the body, which can cause life-threatening complications, such as a stroke. Your doctor may check for blood clots in your heart before cardioversion.

    Before cardioversion, you may be given a blood-thinning medication for several weeks to reduce the risk of blood clots and stroke. Unless the episode of atrial fibrillation lasted less than 48 hours, you'll need to take blood-thinning medication for at least four weeks before and after cardioversion to prevent a blood clot from forming even after your heart is back in normal rhythm.

  • Abnormal heart rhythm. In rare cases, some people who undergo cardioversion end up with other heart rhythm problems during or after the procedure. If heart rhythm problems recur, your doctor can give you medications or additional shocks to correct the problem.
  • Low blood pressure. Some people experience low blood pressure after the procedure, which generally improves on its own and doesn't need treatment.
  • Skin burns. Rarely, some people have minor burns on their skin where their electrodes were placed.

Pregnant women can have cardioversion, but it's recommended that the baby's heartbeat be monitored during the procedure.

May 17, 2014