What is Cardioversion?
Cardioversion is a non-surgical medical procedure that helps treat patients with abnormal heart rhythm, also known as arrhythmias. The procedure may involve the administration of electric current (electrical cardioversion) or medication (pharmacological cardioversion) to restore normal heart rhythm.
Indications for Cardioversion
Cardioversion is mainly indicated to treat heart conditions such as:
- Tachycardia (Heart rate of greater than 100 beats per minute)
- Atrial fibrillation (Fast and chaotic contractions of the upper heart chambers)
- Atrial flutter (Fast and regular contraction of the upper heart chambers)
- Supraventricular tachycardia (Rapid heart rate that originates in the upper chambers)
Types of Cardioversion
The different types of cardioversions are:
- Electrical Cardioversion: This is the most commonly used cardioversion procedure. In this technique, electric currents are administered into the body through electrodes attached to your chest.
- Pharmacological Cardioversion: This is also known as chemical cardioversion. It is performed when the arrhythmia is mild and is done by administering certain medications depending on the type of abnormal rhythm. They include:
Preparation for Cardioversion
Preparation for cardioversion include:
- Your doctor will ask you to perform a transesophageal echocardiogram to detect any blood clots.
- If clots are detected, the procedure may be postponed for 3-4 weeks during which time your doctor will prescribe anti-clotting medicine to break up the blood clots.
- You will be instructed not to drink or eat for a few hours before coming for the procedure.
- You should report to your doctor if you are pregnant or have any other medical conditions.
- Your doctor will acquire a signed informed consent from you after the risks and side effects of the procedure have been explained.
- Wear loose comfortable clothes while coming for the procedure.
- Avoid using body lotion, deodorant, or powder on the back or chest.
- Leave your jewelry or valuables at home.
Cardioversion is an outpatient procedure that includes:
- Your anesthesiologist will administer sedation that will help you to sleep.
- An IV will be placed in the arm to administer medicine to restore heart rhythm during the procedure.
- Blood pressure and oxygen monitoring machine will be connected that monitors your vital signs.
- Your doctor will place sticky patches on your back and chest.
- The patches are then connected to a machine that records the heart’s rhythm.
- Your doctor will pass a low-energy electric current through the patches to normalize the heartbeat.
- The whole procedure takes about 30 to 45 minutes.
Post-procedure Care after Cardioversion
As cardioversion is performed on an outpatient basis, you can go home the same day after the procedure. You will be monitored by the doctor for any signs of complications. If you feel any discomfort, inform your doctor immediately.
Risks and Complications of Cardioversion
Cardioversion is usually a safe procedure, but in certain cases, some of the possible complications include:
- Blood clots
- Minor skin burns
- Chest soreness
- Heart damage
- Abnormal reaction to medicine
- Abnormal heart rhythm
- Low blood pressure
- Pulmonary embolism
- Bruising due to electrodes
- Heart failure