Why do I need a Cardioversion?
Cardioversion relates to the process of restoring the heart's normal rhythm from an abnormal rhythm, most commonly atrial fibrillation. In patients with atrial fibrillation, instead of normal organized electrical activity, the atria (upper chambers of the heart) quiver because of chaotic electrical wavefronts that circulate through both atria. This can result in less efficient blood pumping and an irregular or fast heart beat. Some patients have no symptoms, whereas others may feel rapid heart activity, shortness of breath or fatigue.
What are the types of Cardioversion?
Cardioversion can be chemical or electrical. Before a scheduled cardioversion, it is often necessary to run tests to make sure that there are no blood clots in the heart; this may include an Echocardiogram or a Transesophageal Echocardiogram (TEE). Some people may need medication to thin their blood before having the cardioversion.
Chemical cardioversion refers to taking anti-arrhythmia medication to restore the heart rhythm to normal. Such medication works by altering the hearts electrical properties to suppress the abnormal heart rhythm and restore the normal rhythm. Chemical cardioversion may require brief hospitalization so that your heart can be continuously monitored during the initial medication administration.
Electrical cardioversion is a procedure whereby a synchronized electrical current (shock) is delivered through the chest wall to the heart through electrodes or paddles applied to the chest and back. The delivered shock causes all the heart cells to contract simultaneously, thereby interrupting and terminating the abnormal electrical rhythm. The heart's electrical system then restores normal rhythm.
Electrical cardioversion is performed in the hospital setting by a specially trained cardiologist assisted by specially trained clinical staff. You will be placed on a continuous heart monitor and given oxygen and an IV catheter in preparation for the procedure. During the procedure, you will be provided sedation by an anesthesiologist. Once you are sedated, your cardiologist will deliver the shock. You may require additional shocks if the first shock does not restore normal rhythm.
Following the electrical cardioversion, you will be monitored for several hours, provided a meal and then discharged home. Remember that you will not be allowed to drive. If you were admitted for medication administration prior to electrical cardioversion, you may require slightly longer hospitalization.
- You should report to the Midstate Medical Center (map) Pavilion C at the date and time directed. Date and time are based upon hospital bed availability. The hospital Bed Manager or our office may notify you if a change of date or time is required.
- You should have nothing except sips of water for 12 hours before the procedure. Patients who have eaten within 12 hours must be postponed or rescheduled.
- Take your regularly scheduled medications the morning of the procedure unless your provider has told you otherwise. You may take sips of water with your medication. If you are diabetic, your insulin or diabetes medication should be discussed with your provider.
- Bring a list of all your medications and dosages to the hospital.
- Before the cardioversion, do not apply any lotions or ointments to your chest or back, as this may interfere with the shock pad adhesive.
- You will not be allowed to drive home following the procedure, as you will have received anesthesia. Be sure to arrange a ride home.
- For the remainder of the day, you should not operate a car or heavy machinery or make important decisions.
- After the cardioversion, you may experience some minor chest discomfort or skin irritation.
- If your provider wished to initiate medical therapy before the cardioversion, this will require hospital admission 24 hours prior to the procedure.
We hope this has been helpful, but should you have further questions or concerns, please feel free to call our office at (203)265-9831 and ask for the cardioversion coordinator.