What is Cardioversion?
Cardioversion is a procedure to correct arrhythmias (a heartbeat that is too slow, too fast or irregular). Having an arrhythmia may prevent your body from getting the blood and oxygen it needs. Chemical cardioversion uses medicines, while electrical cardioversion uses electric shocks to treat arrhythmia.
How Do I Prepare for Cardioversion?
Your healthcare provider will provide you with detailed instructions about preparing you for your procedure. Before your cardioversion, you may need a transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE), an ultrasound to check for clots in your heart. You may also need to take blood thinning medicine for several weeks, which can help reduce your risk of developing blood clots. On the day of your cardioversion, you may need to avoid eating, drinking or taking certain medications after midnight. You should arrange for a responsible adult to drive you home and stay with you for 24 hours. This person can call 911 if you have problems after your cardioversion.
What Happens During Chemical Cardioversion?
During this procedure, you will be placed on a heart monitor (EKG machine) that records your heart’s electrical activity. Your healthcare provider will inject one or more medicines through an intravenous (IV) line in your arm, which will help change your heartbeat to a normal rhythm. You may feel light-headed, dizzy or nauseous.
What Happens During Electrical Cardioversion?
There are two types of electrical cardioversion:
- During external cardioversion, your healthcare provider will place sticky pads on your chest and back. Your heart will be shocked with electricity through the pads. Your heart may be shocked more than once to help it return to a normal rhythm.
- During internal cardioversion, your healthcare provider will insert a catheter (thin, flexible tube) through a vein and into your heart. Your heart will be shocked through the catheter. Your heart may be shocked more than once to help it return to its normal rhythm.
What Happens After Cardioversion?
Healthcare providers will monitor your heartbeat, blood pressure and oxygen levels. You may feel drowsy from the medicine you were given during the procedure. Your chest may be red or sore where the pads were placed. This should go away in a few days. You may need to stay in the hospital for monitoring, or you may go home when your care team says you are ready.
What Are the Risks of Cardioversion?
Your skin may be burned from the electric shocks. Cardioversion may cause a blood clot to travel to your heart or brain and cause a heart attack or stroke. You may develop a life-threatening arrhythmia or low blood pressure during cardioversion. You may need medicine or more electrical shocks to treat this. Even with cardioversion, your heartbeat may not change or may not stay regular.
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