When medications fail to work, we can treat some erratic or rapid heartbeats with mild electric shocks during an outpatient visit.

Called cardioversion, this arrhythmia therapy differs from defibrillation — an emergency treatment that uses high-energy electrical shocks when severe irregular heartbeats threaten your life.

Cardioversion is performed during a scheduled appointment, as a preventive measure.

How Cardioversion Works

Our team takes several steps to provide patients with cardioversion:

  1. A nurse or technician inserts an intravenous (IV) line to provide sedation, which puts you to sleep. You will not feel any pain during the procedure.
  2. We place pads (electrodes) on your chest and (possibly) other parts of your body.
  3. We connect the electrodes to a cardioversion machine.
  4. The machine sends a low-energy shock to the heart, which lasts less than a second. It briefly stops the heart, to reset its pumping and restore a normal rhythm.
  5. Our team records the results, then delivers more therapeutic shocks, if needed.
  6. Once the procedure is over, you awaken and rest in the recovery room until you are ready to go home. If you have irritated skin, our team will recommend medicines or creams that can help.

Even if a cardioversion treatment is successful, the arrhythmia may return. You may need to return for one or more sessions over a period of time.

Learn more about arrhythmia treatment, or about the arrhythmias treated with cardioversion:

  • Atrial fibrillation
  • PSVT (paroxysmal supraventricular tachycardia) and a related condition, Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome