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Arrhythmias (Heart Rhythm Disturbances) and Cardioversion

Written by ColleenO, FoundHealth.

Various causes of a rapid heartbeat (arrythmia) can be shocked back to a normal rhythm using electrical current. This procedure is called electrical cardioversion.

Cardioversion can also be done with medications called anti-arrhythmics.

Effect of Cardioversion on Arrhythmias (Heart Rhythm Disturbances)

The underlying mechanism of cardioversion is based on the fact that these rhythms represent circular electrical currents that keep the heart muscle—or parts of it—twitching in an uncoordinated fashion. In an electrical cardioversion, the electric shock stops the current from circling and allows the natural pacemaker (the sinoatrial node, also known as the sinus node) to take charge. Often, medications are given beforehand to assist in the procedure and protect the patient from the unpleasant effects of the shock.

Cardioversion can also be done with medications called anti-arrhythmics. These medications work by restoring normal sinus rhythm. Frequently, a patient must take these for a prolonged period of time.

Read more details about Cardioversion.

Possible Complications

If you are planning to have cardioversion, your doctor will review a list of possible complications, which may include:

  • Inability to stop the abnormal rhythm
  • Abnormal rhythm is resumed after a normal rhythm was established
  • Development of a more dangerous dysrhythmia
  • Damage to the heart muscle
  • Blood clots introduced into your circulation, leading to such complications as stroke or damage to your organs
  • Burning or irritation to the skin of the chest where the paddles or electrodes are applied

Call Your Doctor

After you leave the hospital, contact your doctor if any of the following occurs:

  • Blisters, redness, or open sores on your chest
  • Confusion, lightheadedness, or dizziness
  • Sensation of your heart fluttering (palpitations)
  • Sensation of a skipped or missed hearbeat, or an irregular pulse
  • Cough, difficulty breathing, shortness of breath
  • Severe nausea or vomiting
  • Chest pain or pain in your left arm or jaw
  • Pain in your abdomen, back, arms, or legs
  • Blood in your urine
  • Changes in vision or speech
  • Difficulty walking or using your limbs
  • Drooping facial muscles

In case of an emergency, CALL 911.

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