Cardioversion – electrical

What is cardioversion?

If your heart has an irregular (uneven) beat or is beating too fast (arrhythmia), cardioversion is a way to restore a regular rhythm. Doctors restore regular rhythms by electrical cardioversion applying an electrical shock to the heart.

Quick facts

  • Doctors use cardioversion to treat a fast, irregular heart rhythm called atrial fibrillation or flutter.
  • If you have electrical cardioversion, you’ll get medicine to put you to sleep so you don’t feel the shock.

Why do people have cardioversion?

People have non-emergency or elective cardioversion to treat persistent arrhythmias. The electrical signals that control your heartbeat start in the upper right chamber of your heart (atrium). In atrial fibrillation, very fast, irregular electrical signals move through both of the upper chambers of your heart. This can make your heartbeat fast and irregular. Some people who have atrial fibrillation don’t notice any changes in the way they feel. But others feel:

  • A very fast heartbeat
  • Short of breath
  • Very tired

Cardioversion also treats other kinds of abnormal heartbeats, including atrial flutter, atrial tachycardia and ventricular tachycardia.