Electrical Cardioversion: What to Expect at Home

Skip to the navigation

Your Recovery

Electrical cardioversion treatment

Electrical cardioversion is a treatment for an abnormal heartbeat, such as atrial fibrillation, supraventricular tachycardia, or ventricular tachycardia (VT). It uses a brief electrical shock to reset your heart's rhythm.

After cardioversion, you may have redness, like a sunburn, where the patches were. The medicines you got to make you sleepy may make you feel drowsy for the rest of the day.

Your doctor may have you take medicines to help the heart beat normally and to prevent blood clots.

This care sheet gives you a general idea about how long it will take for you to recover. But each person recovers at a different pace. Follow the steps below to feel better as quickly as possible.

How can you care for yourself at home?

Medicines

  • Take your medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor or nurse call line if you think you are having a problem with your medicine. You may take one or more of the following medicines:
    • Rate-control medicines to slow the heart rate. These include beta-blockers, calcium channel blockers, and digoxin.
    • Rhythm control medicines that help the heart keep a normal rhythm.
    • Blood thinners, also called anticoagulants, which help prevent blood clots.
    You will get more details on the specific medicines your doctor prescribes. Be sure you know how to take your medicine safely.
  • Do not take any vitamins, over-the-counter medicines, or herbal products without talking to your doctor first.

Exercise

  • Start light exercise if your doctor says that it is okay. Even a small amount will help you get stronger, have more energy, and manage your stress. Walking is an easy way to get exercise. Start out by walking a little more than you did in the hospital. Bit by bit, increase the amount you walk.
  • When you exercise, watch for signs that your heart is working too hard. You are pushing too hard if you cannot talk while you are exercising. If you become short of breath or dizzy or have chest pain, sit down and rest right away.
  • Check your pulse regularly. Place two fingers on the artery at the palm side of your wrist in line with your thumb. If your heartbeat seems uneven or fast, talk to your doctor.

Other instructions

  • Ask your doctor when you can drive again.
  • Do not smoke. If you need help quitting, talk to your doctor about stop-smoking programs and medicines. These can increase your chances of quitting for good.
  • Limit alcohol.

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.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You have chest pain or pressure. This may occur with:
    • Sweating.
    • Shortness of breath.
    • Nausea or vomiting.
    • Pain that spreads from the chest to the neck, jaw, or one or both shoulders or arms.
    • A fast or uneven pulse.
    After calling 911, the operator may tell you to chew 1 adult-strength or 2 to 4 low-dose aspirin. Wait for an ambulance. Do not try to drive yourself.
  • You have symptoms of a stroke. These may include:
    • Sudden numbness, tingling, weakness, or loss of movement in your face, arm, or leg, especially on only one side of your body.
    • Sudden vision changes.
    • Sudden trouble speaking.
    • Sudden confusion or trouble understanding simple statements.
    • Sudden problems with walking or balance.
    • A sudden, severe headache that is different from past headaches.
  • You vomit blood or what looks like coffee grounds.
  • You pass maroon or very bloody stools.
  • You passed out (lost consciousness).

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You feel dizzy or light-headed, or you feel like you may faint.
  • Your heart rate becomes irregular.
  • You have shortness of breath.
  • You have any unusual bleeding, such as:
    • Bruises or blood spots under the skin.
    • A nosebleed that you cannot stop.
    • Bleeding gums when you brush your teeth.
    • Blood in your urine.
    • Vaginal bleeding when you are not having your period, or heavy period bleeding.
    • Your stools are black and tar-like or have streaks of blood.

Watch closely for any changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:

  • You do not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

Enter A617 in the search box to learn more about "Electrical Cardioversion: What to Expect at Home".