What is a cardioversion?
Cardioversion is a brief procedure where an electrical shock is delivered to the heart to convert an abnormal heart rhythm back to a normal rhythm. Most elective or "non-emergency" cardioversions are performed to treat atrial fibrillation or atrial flutter, benign heart rhythm disturbances originating in the upper chambers (atria) of the heart. Cardioversion is used in emergency situations to correct a rapid abnormal rhythm associated with faintness, low blood pressure, chest pain, difficulty breathing, or loss of consciousness.
Why do I need a cardioversion?
Each normal heartbeat starts in an area of the heart known as the sinus node which is located in the upper right chamber of the heart (right atria). The sinus node contains specialized cells that send an organized electrical signal through the heart resulting in a perfectly timed, rhythmic heartbeat. In patients with atrial fibrillation, however, the atria fibrillate or "quiver" due to chaotic electrical signals that circulate throughout both atria. This typically results in a fast and irregular heartbeat. While some patients have no symptoms, others may experience shortness of breath, lightheadedness and fatigue. Depending on your specific medical history and symptoms, your physician may recommend a cardioversion to return your heart to a normal rhythm.