Cardioversion refers to the process of restoring the hearts normal rhythm by applying a controlled electric shock to the exterior of the chest. Cardioversion is successful in more than 75% of people who have the procedure. However, fast or irregular heartbeats can occur again. Over time, you may need to have a repeat cardioversion.
Your doctor has probably told you that you have an arrhythmia (abnormal heart rhythm) called atrial fibrillation or atrial flutter (AF) and that you are in need of a procedure called a Cardioversion.
AF is an irregular heart rhythm. While AF is not immediately life threatening, it can lead to serious medical problems. AF can allow blood to pool within the heart and form clots. These clots can travel in the bloodstream and cause a Stroke or Heart Attack. AF can also cause significant symptoms including dizziness, fainting, palpitations, fatigue and chest discomfort. Cardioversion treats AF and the associated problems by restoring your hearts normal rhythm.
Due to the risk of clot formation with irregular heart rhythms, your doctor may prescribe blood thinning medicine to prevent them. You may start taking this medicine several weeks before the procedure and continue it for several months afterwards.
Your doctor will visit you to explain the procedure and answer any questions you may have.
An IV cannula will be placed in your arm, so that you can be given medications to help you relax/sleep during the procedure.
You will be connected to our monitors so that we can watch your heart rhythm, blood pressure, breathing and oxygen levels throughout the procedure.
Two large sticky patches will be applied to your chest. These will be attached to the defibrillator, which is the machine that delivers the shock. You will not feel a shock when the energy flows through your heart because you will be asleep. This energy flow will attempt to restore your hearts normal rhythm.
The procedure lasts approximately 10 minutes.
In rare cases, cardioversion can cause life-threatening arrhythmias. These irregular heart rhythms will occur within minutes of the procedure while you are still being monitored. Since they would be treated immediately with shocks or medicine, they usually do not cause serious problems.
Rarely, cardioversion can cause stroke or other complications if blood clots in the heart travel elsewhere in the body. The risk of this happening is small. Your doctor will discuss the risks with you.
If all goes well, you will be discharged home after 4 hours. Make sure that you have arranged for someone to take you home after the procedure. Due to the medication given during the procedure, you will not be allowed to drive or use heavy machinery for 24 hours following your cardioversion.
If you have further questions regarding this procedure, please ask your nurse or doctor for clarification.
Providing invasive & non-invasive cardiovascular services to patients in Far North Queensland, PNG, and the Torres Strait Islands