What You Need to Know Before the Procedure

  • Cardioversion is a same-day procedure. Arrange for someone to drive you to your appointment and take you home. You shouldn’t drive, operate machinery, or make any important decisions for the rest of the day after your procedure.
  • Don’t eat or drink for at least 8 hours before your cardioversion.
  • Unless one of our team has told you not to, take your usual medicines on the morning of your cardioversion. Bring a list of all your medicines (including over-the-counter medicines, herbs and vitamins) to your appointment.
  • Leave all of your jewelry at home.
  • Don’t apply any lotions, powders or ointments to your chest and back for 24 hours prior to the procedure. They can cause interference with the paddles used to deliver electricity to your heart.

What to Expect the Day of the Procedure

  • We perform cardioversion in the hospital.
  • Our nursing staff will place an IV (intravenous line) in your arm.
  • You will be put to sleep for few minutes by an anesthesiologist.
  • If you need a TEE, that it will be performed at this time.
  • We’ll deliver a synchronized electrical shock on command that lasts for less than a second through two paddles placed on your chest. This shock will stop briefly all the electrical circuits in the heart muscle, terminating the arrhythmia and letting the sinoatrial node, the natural pacemaker, to restart normal heart rhythm.
  • Some people need only 1 shock. Some need more to restore the regular heartbeat.
  • In all cases, patients wake up quickly and don’t remember the shock.
  • The entire procedure takes about 10-15 minutes.

Recovery Immediately Post-Procedure

  • Your nurse will watch you carefully for about an hour after the procedure.
  • You can visit with family members right away, but you may feel sleepy for about an hour.
  • Your physician will discuss the results of the procedure. We’ll also talk to you about whether additional treatment options including antiarrhythmic treatment or an ablation might be beneficial.
  • You can usually go home within 2-3 hours.
  • You can usually go back to your normal activities soon after cardioversion.

At-Home Care

  • Before you leave, you’ll get instructions about what to do at home.
  • IT IS CRUCIAL that you take the anticoagulation medication prescribed for at least one month after your procedure, but depending on your condition, you might need anticoagulation medication for longer time.
  • For a few days after electrical cardioversion, the skin on your chest and back where the paddles were placed may be irritated – one of our team can give you recommendations for creams or medicines that might help.

Frequently Asked Questions

We know you’ll probably have lots of questions after the procedure, and we welcome the opportunity to address them with you. Some of the questions we’ve heard from other patients have included:

Will I still need to take medicine for my abnormal heart rhythms?

Yes, as mentioned above this is only a simple reset of the heart and does not affect the disease process.

How many times can I have this procedure?

You may have it multiple times, and this does not affect your heart function.

What will you do if the cardioversion doesn’t work?

In that situation, you will have a discussion with us about other treatments, antiarrhythmics or ablation to facilitate restoration and maintenance of sinus rhythm.

As with every procedure we perform, our goal is to achieve the best possible result for you, our patient. You will be an active member of the team, making decisions about treatment options.