Electrical Cardioversion

Overview

What Is Electrical Cardioversion?

Electrical cardioversion is a medical procedure that can restore your heart to a normal rhythm if it consistently beats erratically or too fast. This treatment often is used if you have atrial fibrillation (AFib) or an atrial flutter – an abnormal heart rhythm similar to AFib.

The electrical cardioversion procedure includes placing electrodes on your chest that send small electrical pulses to your heart. Your doctor will give you a mild anesthetic medication so you don’t feel any pain.

Your doctor can also perform cardioversion treatment using medications.

Learn more about AFib.

World-Class Care

Aurora’s Specialized Electrical Cardioversion Treatment

Our heart and vascular specialists are among the most experienced professionals in the region. During your cardioversion and long-term heart-care treatment, you can expect:

  • Integrated, team approach to treating AFib: All of our cardiac specialists work closely together. Our coordinated care is particularly important for conditions like AFib and other chronic heart conditions that require long-term management. We can offer you consistent care throughout your treatment.
  • Advanced equipment: We continually update our heart and vascular equipment, including our electrophysiology and cardioversion tools. Also, we are one of the first health systems in the world to use 4-D technology (3-D imaging plus video) in our echocardiograms (heart ultrasounds). We even helped develop some of the systems used today. You’re getting the most advanced electrical cardioversion treatment.
  • Electrophysiology expertise: Our cardiac electrophysiology lab located at Aurora St. Luke’s Medical Center offers hybrid labs/operating rooms (ORs). Our specialists – electrophysiologists, cardiologists, heart surgeons and others – can perform treatments like electrical cardioversion and surgical procedures at the same time, if necessary. For you, that means faster, safer treatment and less time in the hospital.

Preparing for Treatment

How to Get Ready for Your Electrical Cardioversion Procedure

Your doctor will give you personalized guidelines for preparing for your electrical cardioversion treatment. However, general preparation instructions include:

  • Don’t eat or drink anything after midnight the night before your procedure.
  • Ask your doctor whether you can continue taking your regular medications.
  • Your doctor may prescribe blood-thinning medication for you to take before the cardioversion procedure, to help prevent blood clots or strokes. Follow your doctor’s instructions on when to take the blood thinners.

What to Expect

What Happens During Electrical Cardioversion Treatment?

We perform electrical cardioversion procedures in an Aurora hospital, in one of our electrophysiology labs. During your treatment:

  1. We’ll ask you to change out of your regular clothes and into a hospital gown and may need to shave parts of your chest.
  2. We will attach an intravenous (IV) line to your arm to give you medications (including mild pain medication) and fluids. We’ll also attach adhesive electrodes and cardioversion pads to your chest and possibly your back.
  3. Before the cardioversion, your doctor may do a transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE) [PDF], a special type of heart ultrasound. This test helps ensure that you don’t have any blood clots in your heart. The TEE takes about 45 minutes.
  4. The electrical cardioversion procedure itself takes only a few seconds, and you shouldn’t feel any pain from the electrical pulses.
  5. We’ll continuously monitor you to make sure you’re safe during your procedure.

Learn more about cardiac electrophysiology and heart and vascular testing and diagnosis at Aurora.

Recovery

Recovering from Electrical Cardioversion Treatment

In most cases, we’ll keep you in the hospital for an hour to recover from the electrical cardioversion procedure. Your doctor will give you detailed recovery and follow-up instructions. A few things to keep in mind:

  • You shouldn’t feel any pain after the procedure.
  • You’ll need someone to drive you home and stay with you for 24 hours to help you as you start your recovery.
  • You usually can go back to your regular activities and work 24 hours after your procedure.

Long-Term Effect of Electrical Cardioversion

In some cases, electrical cardioversion can permanently restore your regular heart rhythm. However, it’s not a long-term solution for everyone. It’s possible that your AFib could return.

If you continue to experience AFib, your doctor will talk to you about long-term treatment options. For instance, you might need to take anti-arrhythmia medications on a regular basis.

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