Restoring a normal heart rhythm
What is it?
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. Occasionally, your doctor may perform cardioversion using only medications to restore your heart's rhythm.
Cardioversion is usually a scheduled procedure that's performed in a hospital, and you should be able to go home the same day as your procedure.
Cardioversion can be used to treat many types of fast or irregular heart rhythms. The most common irregular heart rhythms that require cardioversion include atrial fibrillation and atrial flutter. Life-saving cardioversion may be used to treat ventricular tachycardia (a rapid, life-threatening rhythm originating from the lower chambers of the heart).
Sometimes, irregular heart rhythms can cause symptoms including:
- A pounding or fluttering in your chest
- Shortness of breath
- Chest discomfort
- Dizziness or extreme fatigue
These symptoms are signs that your heart is not pumping enough blood to your body. 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.
How it's done
A nurse or technician will connect you to several monitors that allow the health care team to check your heart rhythm and blood pressure during the procedure (see Monitors used during the rrocedure below). You are continually monitored during the procedure.
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.
Several large patches called electrodes will be placed 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.
While you are asleep, the doctor will use the cardioverter machine (defibrillator) to deliver specific amounts of energy to your heart through the cardioversion patches. The shock interrupts the abnormal electrical rhythm and restores a normal heart rhythm.
Although the procedure only takes a few seconds, several attempts may be needed to restore the normal heart rhythm.
You'll spend about an hour in a recovery room being closely monitored for complications. Your family may visit you in this area. An EKG may be performed. Your doctor will tell you when you can go home.
The procedure itself lasts only a few minutes. However, the preparation and recovery time for the procedure may add a few hours to your appointment. Please plan to stay 4 to 6 hours for your appointment. You'll need someone to drive you home, and your ability to make decisions may be affected for several hours after your procedure.
Monitors used during the procedure :
Attached to one sticky patch placed on the center of your back and one on your chest. This allows the doctor and nurse to pace your heart rate if it is too slow, or deliver energy to your heart if the rate is too fast.
- Electrocardiogram or EKG:
Attached to several sticky electrode patches placed on your chest. Provides a picture on the monitors of the electrical impulses traveling through the heart.
- Blood pressure monitor:
Connected to a blood pressure cuff on your arm. Checks your blood pressure throughout the procedure.
- Oximeter monitor:
Attached to a small clip placed on your finger. Checks the oxygen level of your blood.
Technology and expertise at Lee Health
Lee Health provides the most advanced technology in the region for patients experiencing heart arrythmias.