Cardioversion involves the shocking of the heart to bring it back into normal rhythm. You may have seen automated external defibrillators (AED) at many public places. These are essentially cardioversion devices for medical emergencies outside of the hospital setting. However, cardioversion can also be scheduled by your electrophysiologist at the hospital. Essentially, if you are heart is in Afib or you are experiencing any other arrhythmia, a cardioversion may be considered as a treatment option.
How a scheduled cardioversion works
Patients will arrive at the hospital well before the procedure for preparation. They will be anesthetized using IV sedation and electrodes will be placed on the chest. The cardioversion machine will use these electrodes to monitor the heartbeat and send the appropriate electrical signals to the heart. Dr. Tordini will also determine when to administer shocks to restore normal rhythm.
Recovery from a cardioversion
The recovery from cardioversion is relatively uneventful in most patients and requires just a few hours at the hospital. We want to ensure that there are no adverse reactions to anesthesia, and we take this time to monitor both your heart rhythm and blood pressure. Once the recovery period is over, you will be released to head home. However, due to the sedation, you will not be able to drive yourself and will require somebody to assist you in the first few hours after leaving the hospital.
Risks and considerations of a cardioversion
Generally speaking, if your electrophysiologist has ordered a cardioversion, it’s because they believe it to be the best next option for restoring a normal heart rhythm. However, the procedure is not without risk. Arrhythmias can worsen during a cardioversion which may require further treatment. A cardioversion can also cause blood clots to break free resulting in a stroke or other significant cardiovascular event. However, we monitor this closely during the procedure and being that you are in a hospital setting, this can be managed very quickly. Some patients at high risk of stroke may receive anticoagulant medication before the cardioversion.
Lastly, while a cardioversion can shock the heart back into normal rhythm, it is also possible that this is only a short-lived benefit. Patients may still require a curative, minimally invasive procedure to handle the arrhythmia once and for all. These may include a cardiac catheter ablation or a balloon cryoablation.
Of course, the first step to any treatment for a cardiac arrhythmia is speaking to a qualified electrophysiologist such as Dr. Tordini. We encourage you to schedule a consultation with her to learn more about your condition and potential treatment options.