A Cardioversion, also known as defibrillation, is a procedure used to restore a fast or irregular heartbeat to a normal rhythm, or normal sinus rhythm. A fast or irregular heartbeat is called an arrhythmia.
A nurse or technician will stick soft patches, called electrodes, on your chest and possibly on your back. Some shaving may be needed to get the patches to stick to your skin.
These patches are attached to a cardioversion machine, or defibrillator. This machine records your heart's electrical activity. The machine also sends low-energy shocks through the patches to restore a normal heart rhythm.
Your nurse will use a needle to insert an intravenous (IV) line into a vein in your arm. Through this line, the doctor or nurse will give you medicine to make you fall asleep. While you're asleep, a cardiologist will give one or more low-energy electrical shocks to your heart. You won't feel any pain from the shocks because of the medicine used to make you sleep.
Your heart rhythm and blood pressure will be closely watched during the procedure for any signs of complications.
The illustration shows a typical setup for a nonemergency cardioversion. Figure A shows an irregular heart rhythm recording (before the cardioversion). Figure B shows a normal heart rhythm recording (after the cardioversion). Figure C shows the patient lying in bed with cardioversion, defibrillator, pads attached to his body. Your cardiologist closely watches the procedure.