Cardioversion is a procedure in which an electrical shock is delivered to the heart to convert an irregular or fast heart rhythm (arrhythmia) back to normal. It is most often performed with electrodes placed on the outside of the chest.

Cardioversion can be used to treat many types of fast or irregular heart rhythms, such as atrial fibrillation, atrial flutter, and tachycardia. 

Cardioversion isn't the same as defibrillation, although they both involve shocking the heart. This technique delivers a low-energy shock, whereas defibrillation gives high-energy shocks to the heart and is typically used during life-threatening events.

The Cooper Heart Institute has a large and renowned team of physicians who offer world class cardiac care and have extensive experience performing cardioversion.

Understanding the procedure

Before the procedure begins, a sedative is given to make the person sleep for the few minutes it takes to do the procedure. A cardiologist from the Cooper Heart Institute will then apply two large, sticky patches on the chest and back. The patches connect to a machine (defibrillator) that will deliver the low-energy electric shock. The doctor will give a quick electric shock through the patches. Although the procedure only takes a few seconds, several attempts may be needed to restore the normal heart rhythm.

After cardioversion, medication may be prescribed to prevent the irregular heart rhythm from recurring.

For an appointment with a Cooper heart rhythm specialist, please call 800.8.COOPER (800.826.6737).