Electrical Cardioversion

Cardioversion is the delivery of a jolt of electricity to change the rhythm of the heart. Sticky patches or metal paddles are placed on the chest to deliver the electricity from a special device. This is done to restore a normal rhythm. A rhythm that is too fast or not regular keeps the heart from pumping well.

Compared to medicines used to change an abnormal rhythm, cardioversion is faster and works better. It is also unpleasant and may dislodge blood clots from the heart.

WHEN WOULD THIS BE DONE?

  • In an emergency:

  • There is low or no blood pressure as a result of the heart rhythm.

  • Normal rhythm must be restored as fast as possible to protect the brain and heart from further damage.

  • It may save a life.

  • For less serious heart rhythms, such as atrial fibrillation or flutter, in which:

  • The heart is beating too fast or is not regular.

  • The heart is still able to pump enough blood, but not as well as it should.

  • Medicine to change the rhythm has not worked.

  • It is safe to wait in order to allow time for preparation.

LET YOUR CAREGIVER KNOW ABOUT:

  • Every medicine you are taking. It is very important to do this! Know when to take or stop taking any of them.

  • Any time in the past that you have felt your heart was not beating normally.

RISKS AND COMPLICATIONS

  • Clots may form in the chambers of the heart if it is beating too fast. These clots may be dislodged during the procedure and travel to other parts of the body.

  • There is risk of a stroke during and after the procedure if a clot moves. Blood thinners lower this risk.

  • You may have a special test of your heart (TEE) to make sure there are no clots in your heart.

BEFORE THE PROCEDURE

  • You may have some tests to see how well your heart is working.

  • You may start taking blood thinners so your blood does not clot as easily.

  • Other drugs may be given to help your heart work better.

PROCEDURE (SCHEDULED)

  • The procedure is typically done in a hospital by a heart doctor (cardiologist).

  • You will be told when and where to go.

  • You may be given some medicine through an intravenous (IV) access to reduce discomfort and make you sleepy before the procedure.

  • Your whole body may move when the shock is delivered. Your chest may feel sore.

  • You may be able to go home after a few hours. Your heart rhythm will be watched to make sure it does not change.

HOME CARE INSTRUCTIONS

  • Only take medicine as directed by your caregiver. Be sure you understand how and when to take your medicine.

  • Learn how to feel your pulse and check it often.

  • Limit your activity for 48 hours.

  • Avoid caffeine and other stimulants as directed.

SEEK MEDICAL CARE IF:

  • You feel like your heart is beating too fast or your pulse is not regular.

  • You have any questions about your medicines.

  • You have bleeding that will not stop.

SEEK IMMEDIATE MEDICAL CARE IF:

  • You are dizzy or feel faint.

  • It is hard to breathe or you feel short of breath.

  • There is a change in discomfort in your chest.

  • Your speech is slurred or you have trouble moving your arm or leg on one side.

  • You get a muscle cramp.

  • Your fingers or toes turn cold or blue.

MAKE SURE YOU:

  • Understand these instructions.

  • Will watch your condition.

  • Will get help right away if you are not doing well or get worse.