If the heart is not beating regularly, it may prevent the normal circulation of blood through the body. This may deprive various organs, including the brain and heart, of oxygen. Without oxygen, the organs cannot properly function and will eventually die.
In atrial fibrillation, the electrical signals from the atria are fast and irregular. The atria quiver, rather than contract. Some signals do not reach the ventricles and the ventricles continue pumping, usually irregularly and sometimes rapidly
Non-emergency cardioversion may be used to treat the following conditions:
—very rapid, irregular quivering in the atrium, the ventricles pump irregularly
—rapid but regular contractions in the atrium, when the ventricular heart rate is not too fast
Emergency cardioversion may be used to treat the following types of irregular heartbeats, which can lead to death if they are not immediately converted to a more normal rhythm:
—rapid beating of the heart, originating in the atrium with rapid ventricular heart rate
Ventricular tachycardia—rapid beating of the heart, originating in the ventricle
Electrodes or paddles will be applied to the chest. An electric charge will be delivered through these electrodes or paddles to the chest and into the heart. This resynchronizes the electrical activity of the heart. It allows the heart’s normal pacemaker to resume normal function. The process may need to be repeated. The electric charge may be increased with each attempt.
You will be monitored closely in a recovery room until you are fully awake. You may be allowed to go home after the procedure. If medication needs to be started to keep your heart in rhythm, you may need to stay in the hospital.
You may be put on blood thinners for a few weeks after the procedure. In this case, blood levels of these medications will need to be monitored via blood tests, usually weekly. Your doctor may also advise an anti-arrhythmic. This type of drug will help prevent the abnormal heartbeat from happening again.