Cardioversion is done to correct abnormally fast or irregular heart rhythms (arrhythmias), most commonly atrial fibrillation and atrial flutter. These conditions can cause your heart to beat inefficiently, so cardioversion can help restore a normal controlled rhythm.
Although atrial fibrillation and atrial flutter are not generally life-threatening, the irregularity of the heart beat can cause blood clots to form in your heart. Occasionally you may need a trans-oesophageal echo performed prior to cardioversion to check there are no blood clots in your heart’s chambers.
You will be asleep throughout the procedure so an intravenous (IV) line will be inserted in your arm before it begins. This is used to give a short acting anaesthetic medicine or sedation to make you sleep.
Large patches called electrodes will be stuck to your chest and sometimes your back. These are connected to the defibrillator machine which is used to deliver the controlled shocks. It also monitors your heart rhythm throughout the procedure, so it can be seen straight away if the cardioversion is successful and normal heart rhythm is restored.
Once you are asleep the procedure only takes a few minutes.
For most people, cardioversion is successful in quickly restoring normal heart rhythm. For some though it may only be successful for a few minutes, days or weeks and the abnormal heart rhythm may return. If this happens you may need to have the procedure again or your doctor will discuss other options.
To improve the overall health of your heart you may need to make some lifestyle changes. You can do this by not smoking, controlling your blood pressure, monitoring your cholesterol level, taking regular exercise, keeping your weight down and reducing your stress.