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School of Medicine
Cardioversion is a common procedure to shock the heart back into rhythm. Most patients who undergo a cardioversion procedure have either atrial fibrillation or atrial flutter. The procedure is done in the EP lab under the direction of a team of highly trained doctors, nurses, and technologists.
You should avoid eating or drinking anything after midnight the night before the study except for your normal medications, unless otherwise directed by your doctor or nurse. Most patients who undergo this procedure are placed on coumadin, a blood thinner, for at least four weeks before and following cardioversion.
In some situations, your doctor may recommend that you have a special type of echocardiogram, called a transesophageal echocardiogram, immediately before your cardioversion to be certain there are no blood clots in your heart before shocking.
Once at the EP lab, a nurse will place an IV in your hand or arm so that you can receive fluids and medications. During the procedure, you will lie on a padded table. You will have a blood pressure cuff on your arm, a clip on your finger to make sure you are getting enough oxygen, and ECG electrodes and two large patches on your chest. The electrodes and patches monitor the heart rhythm and are also used to deliver a safe controlled shock to the chest to restore normal rhythm.
Once you are fully asleep, a shock is delivered to your chest to restore normal rhythm. During recovery, your nurse will record your blood pressure and monitor your heart rhythm regularly. You can eat and drink when you are awake. If you are an outpatient, you may leave after a short recovery period, but you will need someone to drive you home. You can resume full activities one day following the procedure.