Cardioversion is a medical procedure done to restore a normal heart rhythm for people who have certain types of abnormal heartbeats (arrhythmias). Cardioversion is most often done by sending electric shocks to your heart through electrodes placed on your chest. Most elective or “non-emergency” cardioversions are performed to treat atrial fibrillation (AFib) or atrial flutter (AFL), non-life threatening abnormal rhythms in the top of the heart.
Cardioversion is also used in emergency situations to correct an abnormal rhythm when it is accompanied by faintness, Low Blood Pressure, chest pain, difficulty breathing, or loss of consciousness. Even if you barely notice your symptoms, irregular heart rhythms that are left untreated can lead to more serious problems, such as a heart attack or stroke. For most people, cardioversion quickly restores a normal heart rhythm. Types of Cardioversion include: Chemical cardioversion and Electrical cardioversion. Chemical cardioversion is performed by using special rhythm controlling drugs called Antiarrhythmic drugs. Antiarrhythmic medications can be used to restore the heart’s normal rhythm.
Antiarrhythmic medications work by altering the flow of electricity through the heart. Depending on severity of symptoms, underlying heart disease and the specific medication to be used, the chemical conversion may be done as an outpatient, or in the hospital under monitoring. Electrical cardioversion is performed by sending electrical shocks delivered through the chest wall to the heart through special electrodes or paddles that are applied to the skin of the chest and back. The goal of the procedure is to disrupt the abnormal electrical circuit(s) in the heart and thereby to reset the heart to normal rhythm. This split-second interruption of the abnormal beat allows the heart’s electrical system to regain control and restore a normal heartbeat. Electrical cardioversion is performed in a hospital setting where oxygen levels, blood pressure and heart rhythm are closely monitored.