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How does your heart's electrical system work?
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Electrical cardioversion is a procedure that uses an electrical shock to stop an arrhythmia (abnormal heart rhythm). This helps restore your heart's normal beating pattern. The electrical current will enter your body through metal patches that we apply to your chest.
Who needs this procedure?
It is most often used to stop atrial fibrillation but may be used for most abnormal rapid heart rhythms (tachycardia). If you suffer from atrial fibrillation, your heart’s upper chambers beat irregularly, which affects the blood flow to the heart muscle and the rest of your body.
In an emergency, electrical cardioversion is also used for ventricular tachycardias. Ventricular tachycardia is a rapid heart rhythm that originates in the lower chambers (ventricles) of your heart. The rapid heart beat prevents your heart from pumping enough blood through your body.
Before the procedure
Cardioversion is performed in a hospital. However, it is usually an outpatient procedure. You cannot eat or drink anything for at least 8 hours before the procedure. If you are a diabetic, talk to your doctor before the procedure to adjust your diabetes medication.
During the procedure
An intravenous line (IV) will be placed in your arm to give you medication for sedation (to relax you and make you sleep). Electrodes (electrical conductors) will be placed on your chest to monitor your heart rhythm/ Larger pads will be placed on your chest or back to deliver an electrical shock.
A finger probe will be placed on your finger. This device monitors the amount of oxygen in your blood. In addition to the finger probe, an automatic blood pressure cuff will be placed on your arm to monitor your blood pressure. You will be given medication that will put you into a short, deep sleep. However, you will still be able to breathe on your own.
While you are asleep, your cardiologist will deliver an electrical shock through the pads on your chest to correct the arrhythmia.