Electrical Cardioversion

What Is a Cardioversion?

Cardioversion is a procedure in which an electrical shock is delivered to the heart to convert an irregular or fast heart rhythm (arrhythmia) to a normal heart rhythm.

Why Is the Cardioversion Procedure Needed?

Your doctor may recommend that you have a cardioversion procedure to restore your heart rate and rhythm to normal so your 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.


During cardioversion, your doctor uses a cardioverter machine to send electrical energy 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.

Monitors Used During the Procedure

  • Defibrillator/pacemaker/cardioverter: Attached to one sticky patch placed on the center of your back and one on your chest. This allows the doctor and nurse to pace your heart rate if it is too slow or to deliver energy to your heart if the rate is too fast.
  • Electrocardiogram/EKG/ECG: Attached to several sticky electrode patches placed on your chest as well as inside your heart. Provides a picture on the monitors of the electrical impulses traveling through the heart.
  • Blood pressure monitor: Connected to a blood pressure cuff on your arm. Checks your blood pressure throughout the procedure.
  • Oximeter monitor: Attached to a small clip placed on your finger. Checks the oxygen level of your blood.


What Happens Before The Procedure?

Before the procedure begins, a nurse will help you get ready and you will change into a hospital gown. You may keep your clothes in a locker, or you may give them to a family member.

You will lie on a bed, and the nurse will start an intravenous (IV) line in a vein in your arm or hand. The IV is used to deliver medications and fluids during the procedure.

EKG patches and adhesive cardioversion pads will be placed on your chest and, sometimes, on your back. Men may have their chest hair shaved if necessary.

Will I Be Awake During The Procedure?

No. You will receive a medication through your IV to make you fall asleep during the procedure.

What Happens During The Procedure?

While you are asleep, the doctor will use the cardioverter machine (defibrillator) to deliver specific amounts of energy to your heart through the cardioversion patches. The shock interrupts the abnormal electrical rhythm and restores a normal heart rhythm.

Although the procedure only takes a few seconds, several attempts may be needed to restore the normal heart rhythm.

How Long Does The Procedure Last?

The procedure itself lasts only a few minutes. However, the preparation and recovery time for the procedure may add a few hours to your appointment.

Please plan to stay at the hospital for up to 2 hours for your procedure.

Will I Have To Stay At The Hospital?

No. In most cases, you will go home the day of the procedure.