Why You Might Need Cardioversion
Usually performed by sending low-energy shocks to your heart through electrodes placed on your chest, cardioversion is a procedure used to restore a normal heart rhythm when you have a fast or irregular heartbeat (arrhythemia).
Cardioversion is a medical procedure that is done to restore a normal heart rhythm when you have a fast or irregular heartbeat (arrhythemia).
Left untreated, arrhythemias can raise your risk of stroke, heart attack, and sudden cardiac arrest. Cardioversion is usually performed by sending low-energy shocks to your heart through electrodes placed on your chest. In rare instances, your doctor may perform cardioversion using only medications to trigger a normal heart rhythm.
The procedure is usually done on an outpatient basis in a hospital and you should be able to go home the same day following the procedure. For most people, cardioversion quickly resolves the problem, although fast or irregular heartbeats can recur, requiring another cardioversion procedure.
If you have an arrhythmia that's causing you symptoms, including dizziness, shortness of breath, extreme fatigue, and chest discomfort, your doctor may recommend cardioversion.
How to Prepare for the Procedure
Usually cardioversion procedures are scheduled in advance, although if you're having severe symptoms, you may have to undergo the procedure in an emergency setting. Typically, you can't eat or drink anything for 12 hours before the procedure.
Before cardioversion is performed, you doctor may also do a procedure called a tranesophageal echocardiogram (a type of ultrasound) to check for blood clots in your heart, which can come loose during cardioversion, causing life-threatening complications. If you do have blood clots, your cardioversion procedure may be postponed for several weeks while you take blood-thinning medications to dissolve the clots.
During the cardioversion procedure, your medical team will connect the electrodes on your chest to a defibrillator using wires to record your heart rhythm throughout the procedure and deliver shocks to your heart to restore a normal heart rhythm. Before the shocks are delivered, your nurse will insert an intravenous (IV) line in your arm to give you medications to make you sleep during the procedure.
Cardioversion only takes a few minutes to complete. Even if no clots were found in your heart before the procedure, your doctor will prescribe blood-thinning medications for you to take for several weeks to prevent new blood clots from forming.
Staying Heart Healthy
To keep your heart healthy following your cardioversion procedure, your doctor may suggest you do the following:
- Avoid caffeine
- Reduce your salt intake, which can lower blood pressure
- Increase your physical activity
- Quit smoking
- Avoid having more than one drink of alcohol a day for women or more than two drinks a day for men, if you choose to drink at all
- Eat a heart-healthy diet and maintain a healthy weight
National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. "What Is Cardioversion?" Web
Mayo Clinic. "Cardioversion." Web.
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