Electrical Cardioversion is a medical procedure where a brief pulse of electrical current is delivered to a patient’s heart to terminate an abnormal cardiac rhythm. This is usually an abnormally fast heart beat (tachyarrhythmia) but may also include an irregular heart beat (atrial fibrillation) or a totally disorganised heart beat, as in cardiac arrest and ventricular fibrillation.

How the Procedure is Performed

Two electrode pads connected to the defribrillator are placed onto the front of the patient’s chest (or front and back) and the cardiac rhythm is monitored on the ECG (electrocardiogram). A selected electrical current (usually biphasic) is selected and the timing of the shock decided upon – usually synchronised with the R wave of the ECG. The patient is usually sedated for comfort, and when ready, everyone stands clear of the patient whilst the shock is delivered. Sometimes more than one shock, at higher energies are required.

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Medical Conditions and Symptoms

Any of the following abnormal heart rhythms may be treated with electrical cardioversion:

  • Ventricular tachycardia (VT)
  • Supraventricular tachycardia (SVT)
  • Atrial fibrillation (AF)
  • Ventricular fibrillation (VF)
  • Atrial flutter

Recovery and Rehabilitation

This depends on the underlying cardiac condition. Cardioversion in itself is not a major procedure and can be done in a day procedure unit, in the case of non life-theatening arrhythmias.

Related Specialists

Related Procedures

  • Medical (pharmacologic) cardioversion
  • Transcutaneous Pacing

Related Tests

Also Known As

  • DC (Direct Current) cardioversion
  • “Shocking” a patient
  • Cardioversion
  • Electrical cardioversion



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This article is for informational purposes only and should not be taken as medical advice. If in doubt, HealthEngine recommends consulting with a registered health practitioner.