What is cardioversion?

Cardioversion is a medical procedure using electrical stimulation or medication to convert an abnormally fast heart rate or other cardiac arrhythmias to a normal rhythm. Typically, the doctor places electrodes on the patient’s chest during cardioversion and sends electric shocks to the heart. Cardioversion, which is typically a scheduled procedure performed in a hospital, can correct a heartbeat that’s too fast, which is called tachycardia, or irregular, which is called fibrillation. Cardiologists use also cardioversion to treat people who have atrial fibrillation or atrial flutter. Such conditions occur when electrical signals, which regulate your heart’s beating, fail to travel correctly through your heart’s upper chambers. In most patients, cardioversion quickly restores normal heart rhythms.

When cardioversion is performed using electrical stimulation, it requires less time than cardioversion that is performed using only medications. When your doctor recommends cardioversion using only medication to restore your heart’s proper rhythm, you won’t receive any electric stimulation. Don’t confuse cardioversion with defibrillation, which is an emergency procedure performed when your heart stops or quivers uselessly. Defibrillation delivers more powerful shocks to the heart than cardioversion. Most patients can go home the same day as their cardioversion procedure.

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