Cardioversion is a procedure that uses an electrical current to stop an irregular heart rhythm and change the heart rhythm to a regular rate.

What is cardioversion?

Cardioversion is a medical procedure that restores a normal heart rhythm in people with certain types of abnormal heartbeats (arrhythmias).

How should I prepare for my cardioversion procedure?

Your doctor will arrange for any tests or medications needed prior to your cardioversion. In addition, there are several things you will need to do to prepare in advance, the night before, the morning of, and just before your procedure. Here is an outline of the steps to take.

At home the evening before your cardioversion:

  • After midnight, do not eat or drink anything. Do not chew gum, eat candy or drink water or other fluids.
  • Take a shower or bath. Do not use deodorant, lotions, powder or perfume on your skin after your bath or shower.
  • Remove all make up, lipstick and nail polish.
  • Take the medication ranitidine as instructed by your physician.

The morning of your cardioversion:

  • Take all of your medications except the diuretics with a sip of water only (50 ml at most).
  • Diabetic patients should not take diabetic medications unless instructed by your doctor. Bring your diabetic medication with you.
  • Bring all of the medications, in the original containers, with you to the hospital.
  • Leave your money, valuables and jewelry at home.

In hospital before your cardioversion:

  • Report to patient registration for the time given to you by your doctor’s office (at least 30 minutes before your cardioversion is scheduled).
  • Bring your BC Care Card.
  • You will be given directions to the operating room where a nurse will get you ready for your cardioversion.

In the operating room holding area:

  • Put on the hospital gown you will be given.
  • Wait to be taken to the post-anaesthetic care unit (PACU), where the cardioversion will be done.

Post Anaesthetic Care Unit (PACU):

In the PACU:

  • You will be attached to a heart monitor.
  • An intravenous line will be started.
  • Both an internist/cardiologist and anaesthesiologist will be present during your cardioversion.
  • The anaesthesiologist will give you a light general anesthetic (you will be asleep) and your internist/cardiologist will administer the electrical current to your heart.
  • After your cardioversion, you will wake up and stay in the PACU to recover.
  • Your heart rate will be monitored.
  • You will stay in PACU until you are fully awake and stable.
  • Your stay will be about one hour before you are ready to be sent home and discharged from hospital.

How should I plan for my discharge from hospital?

Because you were given medication for pain and to help you relax during your procedure. You might feel sleepy for the rest of the day. 

It is very important to ensure you have a responsible adult with you to drive you home and stay with you at all times during the first 24 hours that you are at home after your cardioversion. In addition:

  • For 24 hours following the procedure, you should not drink alcohol or take sedative drugs, except as ordered by your doctor.
  • Do not drive for 24 hours.
  • Do not operate heavy machinery.
  • Do not make important decisions for at least 24 hours. This is because of the anesthetic you have received during your cardioversion.
  • Someone should stay with you for the next 12 to 24 hours.
  • Keep your activities light the first day after your cardioversion.
  • Eat what you normally would. If you feel sick to your stomach, eat small amounts of bland foods.
  • Continue with your present medications unless you are told to change by your internist/cardiologist.
  • Drink small amounts of fluids such as water, juice, and ginger ale.

Sometimes the skin under the cardioversion pads gets red and sore. It can feel like a mild sunburn. This should go away over the next few days. Soothe your skin with cool cloths. Contact your doctor if you notice blisters, or if the soreness gets worse or does not go away.

If you were on blood thinner medication before the cardioversion, continue to take the blood thinner medication as directed by your doctor.

When should I seek medical attention after a cardioversion?

Generally speaking, you should make a follow up appointment to see your doctor about a week after you are discharged from hospital. However, if you develop certain symptoms, you should seek medical attention sooner. Make and urgent appointment with your doctor if:

  • Your pulse or heart rate becomes irregular or very fast.
  • You feel lightheaded or dizzy.
  • You have shortness of breath.
  • You have questions or concerns.

Call 9-1-1 immediately if:

  • You have weakness or numbness on one side of your body.
  • You have sudden changes in your vision or speech.
  • You faint or feel like you are going to faint.
  • You have increasing chest pain or chest pain that is new for you.

Resources

The following resources have more information on cardioversion: