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Learning About Cardioversion

Electrical cardioversion treatment

What is cardioversion?

Cardioversion is a treatment that helps your heart return to a normal rhythm. It treats problems like atrial fibrillation.

It is also sometimes used in emergencies. It can correct a fast heartbeat that causes low blood pressure, chest pain, or heart failure.

Cardioversion can be done by using an electric current or medicines.

What are the types of cardioversion?

There are two types:

  • The electrical type uses an electric current. The current enters your body through patches on your chest or back.
  • The chemical type uses medicines. The medicine is usually put into your arm through a tube called an IV.

Your doctor may ask you to take medicines before the treatment. These help prevent blood clots.

Electrical cardioversion

The electrical procedure is done in a hospital. You will get medicine to help you relax and control the pain.

Your doctor will put patches on your chest or back. The patches send an electric current to your heart. This resets your heart rhythm.

The electrical part takes about 5 minutes. But you will probably be in the hospital for 1 to 2 hours. You will need to recover from the effects of the sedative medicine.

Chemical cardioversion

The chemical procedure is most often done in a hospital. In most cases, the medicine is put into your arm through a tube called an IV. But you may get medicines to take by mouth.

You may feel a quick sting or pinch when the IV starts. The procedure usually takes about 4 to 8 hours.

What can you expect after cardioversion?

  • You can usually go home the same day. You will need someone to drive you home.
  • Your doctor may have you take medicines daily. These help your heart beat normally and prevent blood clots.
  • After electrical cardioversion, you may have redness where the patches were. This looks and feels like a sunburn.
  • Abnormal heart rhythms sometimes come back after cardioversion.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

Where can you learn more?

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