Cardioversion

A cardioversion is a procedure that can help your heart rhythm get back to its normal, sinus rhythm if it is in a persistently abnormal rhythm (such as atrial fibrillation or atrial flutter).

Before your cardioversion takes place, you will be given a general anaesthetic so that you will be asleep during it. Because of this, you will usually have to be starved for a minimum of 6 hours prior to the procedure.

Large stickers (called ‘pads’) will be placed on your chest, and these are in turn connected to a defibrillator. Over the course of about 10 minutes, you may be given up to three electrical shocks from the defibrillator. The shock(s) should put your heart back into a normal rhythm, after which you are woken up again. In some instances, the shocks cannot restore sinus rhythm – if this is the case, you will just be woken up again and another attempt may be made on another day.

You may feel slightly sleepy and sick after your general anaesthetic, and you may have some irritation on your chest where the shock was given (although this is rare).