Electrical Cardioversion

Cut away image of heart showing SA node, right atrium, AV node, and left atrium
Cut away image of heart showing SA node, right atrium, AV node, and left atrium

You had a cardioversion today. This is an electrical shock applied to the chest. The shock reset your heart rhythm back to normal. Your chest wall and chest muscles may feel sore for a few days. Some redness may appear on the skin on your chest where the cardioversion patches were applied. That will go away within a week.

To get ready for this procedure, you may have been given medicine to help you relax and to reduce pain. Depending on the medicine used, it could take up to 8 hours for the effect to wear off.

Home care

Follow these guidelines when caring for yourself at home:

  • Have a responsible adult watch you for the next 8 hours. This is in case your condition gets worse.

  • Don’t take any oral medicine for pain or sleep during the next 4 hours. These medicines might react with the medicines you were given in the hospital. This can cause a much stronger response than usual.

  • Don’t drink any alcohol for the next 24 hours.

  • Don’t drive or operate dangerous machinery during the next 24 hours.

  • Your healthcare provider will have prescribed medicines to stop the abnormal heart rhythm from coming back. Take these medicines as directed. Expect to take blood thinners for at least 4 weeks. This course of blood thinners should not be interrupted. Don't schedule other invasive procedures during this time. Interrupting this medicine could increase your risk for a stroke after a cardioversion.

  • You may use acetaminophen to control pain, unless another pain medicine was prescribed. Ibuprofen may also be considered, however this can increase risk of bleeding when taken with blood thinners. If you have chronic liver or kidney disease, talk with your provider before taking these medicines. Also talk with your provider if you’ve had a stomach ulcer or gastrointestinal bleeding.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your healthcare provider, or as advised, if you aren’t alert and back to your usual level of activity within 12 hours. 

Call 911

Call 911 if you have: 

  • Pain in your chest, arm, shoulder, neck or upper back

  • You have problems speaking or seeing

  • Weakness in an arm or leg

  • You are unable to move your arm or leg on one side of your body

  • You have uncontrolled bleeding from blood thinning medicines 

When to seek medical advice

Call your healthcare provider right away if any of these occur:

  • Weakness, dizziness, lightheadedness, or fainting

  • Shortness of breath

  • You feel like your heart is fluttering or beating fast, hard, or irregularly (palpitations)

  • More than minor skin discomfort or redness where the cardioversion pads were placed 

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