A Treatment Option for Irregular Heartbeat

Chandler area residents who suffer from an irregular heartbeat may benefit from a medical treatment called cardioversion. Typically prescribed for patients with atrial fibrillation or atrial flutter, cardioversion is an outpatient procedure that quickly restores a normal heartbeat using painless electrical shocks to the heart.

What to Expect

While cardioversion is a relatively low-risk procedure, it uses electrical shock and that is an unsettling idea for many people. It is important to note that cardioversion is not the same as the emergency rescue procedure defibrillation. Cardioversion corrects heart rhythms while defibrillation is used to start a heart and that has stopped and used a much higher electrical shock. The best way to mitigate anxiety about cardioversion is to give the prospective patient an overview of what to expect before, during, and after the procedure.

  • Preparation. Typically, you won’t be allowed to eat or drink anything for eight hours before your procedure. Be sure to ask your doctor if you should take your regular medication. If you do take medication only use a sip of water needed to swallow the pill(s). Your doctor may perform a transesophageal echocardiogram to check for blood clots in your heart. If clots are found your cardioversion will be delayed for four weeks and you will be put on a blood thinner to minimize complications.
  • During the Procedure. The patient is placed on a table and a nurse anesthesiologist will insert an IV and start medications that will put the patient asleep for the procedure. Several patches containing electrodes or “leads” are attached to the patient’s chest. These electrodes are connected to the cardioversion machine that generates the shocks and provides instant analysis of the patient’s heart rhythm. The actual procedure is quite short. Your doctor gets instant feedback on the shock’s effectiveness.
  • Recovery. After the procedure, the patient will be moved to a recovery room and monitored for about an hour. After that, the patient is free to go home. Someone will have to drive the patient as difficulty focusing and making decisions are a common short-term after-effect. A blood-thinner will be prescribed and the patient will need to take it for four weeks. Cardioversion does not damage the heart in any way according to the NIH. However, it is important that you take the blood-thinning medication and not perform any strenuous physical activity until your doctor approves it.

Get More Information

If you are considering cardioversion or have questions, we encourage you to contact one of Chandler’s leading cardio-care teams at Heart & Rhythm. Call us now and arrange for a consultation with one of our experienced cardiologists.