If you have an abnormal heart rhythm (arrhythmia), your doctor may suggest cardioversion treatments to normalize your heartbeat. Options include:
- Chemical or pharmacologic cardioversion — Certain medications, taken by mouth or delivered intravenously, can help regulate heart rhythms. Your doctor may direct you to take medications at home or administer them in the hospital. You might experience results in minutes, or it may take days.
- Electrical cardioversion — This scheduled treatment resets the heartbeat by sending one or more electric shocks to the heart through electrodes placed on your chest (or chest and back). The treatment is done under sedation so you don’t feel anything, and it takes about 30 minutes. Your doctor might recommend this procedure for atrial fibrillation, or AFib, the most common type of arrhythmia. Your doctor can immediately see if cardioversion restores your heartbeat to normal.
- Cardiac ablation — This procedure, also called catheter ablation or radiofrequency ablation, uses electrical (or sometimes cold) energy delivered through tubes to destroy abnormal heart tissue that’s causing arrhythmia.
If you have ongoing, dangerous heart rhythms, your doctor may advise an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator, a small device inserted in your chest to sense your heartbeat and deliver immediate electrical pulses as needed.
- Emergency cardioversion — Also called defibrillation, this is used for life-threatening arrhythmia, such as a sudden heart attack. Powerful electric shocks delivered by paddles placed on your chest (or chest and back) briefly stop all electrical impulses to your heart and then allow the normal heartbeat to resume.