Defibrillator used to deliver energy to the heart during cardioversion

What is cardioversion?

Cardioversion is a procedure in which an electrical shock is delivered to the heart to convert an irregular or fast heart rhythm (called an arrhythmia) to a normal heart rhythm. During cardioversion, your doctor uses a cardioverter machine to send electrical energy (or a “shock”) to the heart muscle to restore the normal heart rhythm.

Cardioversion can be used to treat many types of fast or irregular heart rhythms. The most common irregular heart rhythms that require cardioversion include atrial fibrillation and atrial flutter. Life-saving cardioversion may be used to treat ventricular tachycardia (a rapid, life-threatening rhythm originating from the lower chambers of the heart).

Why is the cardioversion procedure needed?

Your doctor may recommended that you have a cardioversion procedure to restore your heart rate and rhythm to normal, so you heart can pump as it should. Sometimes, irregular heart rhythms can cause symptoms including:

  • A pounding or fluttering in your chest
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest discomfort
  • Dizziness or extreme fatigue

These symptoms are signs that your heart is not pumping enough blood to your body. Even if you barely notice your symptoms, irregular heart rhythms that are left untreated can lead to more serious problems, such as a heart attack or stroke.

If your doctor recommends that you have a cardioversion procedure, please ask him to talk with you about the specific risks and benefits of the procedure.

Cardio Rhythm

Where is the procedure performed?

In most cases, the cardioversion procedure takes place in the Electrophysiology Lab.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 05/17/2019.

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