Cardioversion for Atrial Fibrillation & Atrial Flutter in Adults

Cardiac electrophysiologists at NYU Langone’s Heart Rhythm Center perform cardioversion, in which electricity or medication is used to correct abnormal heart rhythms caused by atrial fibrillation or atrial flutter. This procedure is typically done if lifestyle changes or medications to control heart rhythm aren’t effective.

There are two types of cardioversion.

Electrical Cardioversion

In electrical cardioversion, the heart rate is corrected using electric signals.

In this procedure, which is performed with sedation, your doctor delivers an electrical shock to the heart using metal paddles connected to a machine. They are both placed on the chest, or one is placed on the chest and the other on the back.

A brief electrical shock is delivered to reset your heart rhythm. Sometimes, more than one shock is required.

You are given a sedative before the procedure, which takes 30 minutes. You can typically return to your usual activities afterward. The skin where the paddles are placed may be red or irritated for several days after the procedure. Your doctor may prescribe an ointment for the skin, if needed.

Pharmacologic Cardioversion

In pharmacologic cardioversion, medication is given by mouth or through an intravenous (IV) line in the arm to correct an arrhythmia. This type of treatment is typically used for intermittent arrhythmias.

After electrical or pharmacologic cardioversion, you may be given anticoagulants to help prevent blood clots from forming, reducing your risk of stroke, or medication to prevent new arrhythmias.

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