A nurse or technician will place several large patches called electrodes on your chest. The electrodes will be connected to a cardioversion machine (defibrillator) using wires. The defibrillator will record your heart rhythm throughout the procedure and will deliver shocks to your heart to restore a normal heart rhythm. This machine can also pace your heart if it beats too slowly after cardioversion.
Before the shocks are delivered, a nurse or technician will insert an intravenous (IV) line in your arm. The IV line is used to give you medications that will make you sleep during the procedure so that you won't feel any pain from the shocks. Your doctor may also use the IV line to give you additional medications that can help restore your heart rhythm.
Once you're sedated, electric cardioversion usually only takes a few minutes to complete.
After the procedure
Electric cardioversion is done on an outpatient basis, meaning you can go home the same day your procedure is done. You'll spend about an hour in a recovery room being closely monitored for complications.
Because you'll be asleep for the procedure, your awareness of your surroundings may be affected afterward. You'll need someone to drive you home, and your ability to make decisions may be affected for several hours after your procedure.
Even if no clots were found in your heart before your procedure, you'll take blood-thinning medications for several weeks after your procedure to prevent new clots from forming.
Jun. 24, 2011
- Cardioversion. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/dci/Diseases/crv/crv_all.html. Accessed March 4, 2011.
- Wann LS, et al. 2011 ACCF/AHA/HRS focused update on the management of patients with atrial fibrillation (updating the 2006 guideline): A report of the American College of Cardiology Foundation/American Heart Association Task Force on Practice Guidelines. Circulation. In press. Accessed March 4, 2011.
- Podrid PJ. Cardioversion for specific arrhythmias. http://www.uptodate.com/home/index.html. Accessed March 4, 2011.
- Podrid PJ. Basic principles and technique for cardioversion and defibrillation. http://www.uptodate.com/home/index.html. Accessed March 4, 2011.
- Nagarakanti R, et al. Dabigatran versus warfarin in patients with atrial fibrillation: An analysis of patients undergoing cardioversion. Circulation. 2011;123:131.