What Happens During Electrical Cardioversion?

We understand the anxiety that can come with having an irregular heartbeat, especially when treatment options like electrical cardioversion are discussed. We believe in empowering our patients with knowledge and information about their condition so they can make the best decisions for their health. That’s why we created this guide to explain what happens during electrical cardioversion. Continue reading to learn more about this procedure, its significance in treating atrial fibrillation, and what to expect during treatment. 

What is Atrial Fibrillation?

Before diving into electrical cardioversion, we should understand atrial fibrillation (AF). AF is a heart condition characterized by irregular and rapid heartbeats originating in the upper chambers (atria) of the heart. This irregular heartbeat can lead to symptoms such as palpitations, shortness of breath, and fatigue. If left untreated, AF can contribute to more severe cardiovascular issues, emphasizing the importance of effective management strategies. A common atrial fibrillation medical procedure is cardioversion. 

What Is Cardioversion?

Electrical cardioversion is an atrial fibrillation medical procedure often recommended for patients experiencing irregular and rapid heartbeats. Cardioversion is used to correct abnormal heart rhythms, also known as arrhythmias. When your heart beats too quickly, too slow, or irregularly, it can affect your blood flow and lead to severe complications like stroke or heart failure. Cardioversions can help “reset” your heart rhythm to its regular pattern. 

There are two main types of cardioversion:

  • Electrical cardioversion – This procedure uses a controlled electrical shock to reset your heart rhythm. 
  • Chemical cardioversion – This type uses medications to restore your heart rhythm.

Who Needs Electrical Cardioversion?

Electrical cardioversion may be recommended for you if you have certain types of arrhythmias, such as:

  • Atrial fibrillation (AFib): This is the most common type of arrhythmia, and it can cause symptoms like dizziness, fatigue, and difficulty breathing.
  • Atrial flutter: This is a rapid but regular heart rhythm often progressing to AFib.
  • Supraventricular tachycardia (SVT): This is a fast heart rhythm starting above the ventricles (the lower chambers of the heart).

What Happens During Electrical Cardioversion?

Electrical cardioversion is usually an outpatient procedure, meaning you can go home the same day. Here’s what you can expect:

Before the procedure:

  • You’ll have a consultation with your cardiologist to discuss your medical history and medications.
  • You may need to stop taking certain medications, such as blood thinners.
  • You’ll be instructed not to eat or drink for several hours before the procedure.

During the procedure:

  1. Preparation: You’ll lie on a bed in a hospital room. Your doctor will place electrodes on your chest and back. These electrodes will monitor your heart rhythm and deliver the electrical shock.
  2. Sedation: You’ll be given medication through an IV to make you sleepy and relaxed. You won’t feel any pain during the procedure.
  3. Delivery of the shock: Your doctor will deliver a brief electrical shock through the electrodes. The shock may feel like a thump or a jolt, but you shouldn’t feel any pain.
  4. Monitoring: After the shock, your doctor will closely monitor your heart rhythm to see if it has returned to normal. You may need additional shocks if the first one is not successful.

After the procedure:

  • You’ll rest in the recovery room until you’re fully awake and alert.
  • You may have some redness or soreness on your chest where the electrodes were placed. This is normal and should go away within a few days.
  • Your doctor will discuss your results and any follow-up care you may need.

Talk to Your AMS Cardiology Doctor!

If you still have questions about what is cardioversion or have been diagnosed with AF, schedule a consultation with our experienced cardiologists. We are here to guide you through the treatment options and help you on your heart-healthy journey.

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