If your heart has an irregular (uneven) beat or is beating too fast, cardioversion is a way to restore a regular rhythm.  Abnormal heart rhythms are called arrhythmias.  Cardioversion at St Joseph’s will be performed by experienced cardiologists, consultant anaesthetists, theatre nurses and cardiac nurses.

There are two kinds of cardioversion.  Your doctor may give you one or more medicines to bring back your regular heartbeat.  This is called pharmacologic (chemical) cardioversion.  Doctors also restore regular rhythms by sending an electrical shock to the heart.  This is called electrical cardioversion.

Quick facts

  • Arrhythmias may prevent blood from circulating properly to your heart and brain.
  • Most often, doctors use cardioversion to treat a fast, irregular heart rhythm called atrial fibrillation.
  • If you have electrical cardioversion, you’ll get medicine to put you to sleep so you don’t feel the shock.

Why do people have cardioversion?

It is not uncommon for people to have non-emergency or elective cardioversion to treat arrhythmias.  The electrical signals that control your heartbeat start in the upper right chamber of your heart (atrium).  In atrial fibrillation, very fast, irregular electrical signals move through both of the upper chambers of your heart.  This can make your heartbeat fast and irregular.  Some people who have atrial fibrillation don’t notice any changes in the way they feel.  Others feel:

  • a very fast heartbeat
  • short of breath
  • very tired

Cardioversion also treats other kinds of abnormal heartbeats, including atrial flutter, atrial tachycardia and ventricular tachycardia.


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