If you have atrial fibrillation (Afib or AF), then you have probably talked with your care team about treatment options for controlling your symptoms and helping to prevent stroke. Your care team may have recommended heart-healthy lifestyle changes as well as medications to manage your heart’s rate and rhythm. They may have also prescribed blood-thinning medications (anticoagulants) that have been shown to prevent stroke. Your care team may have talked with you about other treatment options, such as having a pacemaker implanted or undergoing a minimally invasive procedure. These procedures may include cardioversion or catheter ablation. Here we review information about cardioversion.
What Is Cardioversion?
Cardioversion is a procedure used to “reset” the heartbeat so that it beats normally (known as normal sinus rhythm). There are two types of cardioversion:
- Electrical cardioversion is performed in a hospital. If you decide on treatment with electrical cardioversion, your care team will sedate you so that you sleep through the procedure. While you are asleep, a mild electric shock will be administered to your heart. The shock will “reset” your heartbeat, putting it back into normal sinus rhythm. You can learn more about electrical cardioversion here.
- Pharmacologic cardioversion is a process of taking specific medications to restore your heartbeat to its normal sinus rhythm. If your doctor recommends pharmacologic cardioversion, he or she will prescribe a combination of medications that maintain the rate and/or rhythm of your heart. For many patients, this may be performed in the hospital. To learn more about pharmacologic cardioversion, click here.
Whether cardioversion is right for you – and which type is better suited to your situation – will depend on your symptoms, your overall health, your own treatment goals, your preferences and other factors. Your care team, typically led by an electrophysiologist, will discuss the benefits and risks of both types of cardioversion with you. It is always a good idea to have a family member or friend with you when discussing your medical condition and treatment options. Together you can take notes and ask all of your questions.
Learn More About Atrial Fibrillation & How It Can Be Treated
To learn more about atrial fibrillation and options for managing symptoms, follow these links: