Electrical cardioversion

Electrical cardioversion is a procedure that uses an electric current to stop the heart momentarily. This helps the heart attain a normal rhythm when it resumes beating.

Usually a person is given a sedative before the procedure. Then a device called an external defibrillator—which consists of metal paddles or pads—is placed on the person's chest. The external defibrillator sends the electrical current to the heart. Health professionals are prepared to help maintain a person's circulation during the procedure with medications and other methods.

Cardioversion may be used to help the heart return to a normal rhythm after medications have failed to do so. The procedure also may be done in emergency situations, such as to correct a fast heart rhythm that is causing low blood pressure, chest pain, or heart failure.

Last Updated: December 18, 2008

Author: Robin Parks, MS

Medical Review: Caroline S. Rhoads, MD - Internal Medicine & John M. Miller, MD - Electrophysiology

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