Cardioversion

It’s normal to feel like you “have butterflies” in your chest when you’re frightened or excited. However, if this feeling comes and goes with no reason, it can be sign of an irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia). Also known as atrial fibrillation, this condition can make it difficult for your heart to pump enough blood to your body. 

The Heart and Vascular Center is one of the few centers in North Carolina offering treatment for atrial fibrillation. Our specialists in cardiac electrophysiology and our premier cardiothoracic surgeons work together to provide a range of treatments. 

Cardioversion at Wake Forest 

Your heart’s internal electrical system triggers your heartbeat. With each heartbeat, this system fires a signal that spreads from your heart’s top to bottom. This signal causes the muscles to contract and relax, which is what pumps blood throughout your body. 

Cardioversion is a nonsurgical procedure used to “convert” an irregular heartbeat back to a normal rhythm. At Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, we offer this treatment in two forms. We will discuss the options with you and choose the technique that offers you the best results. The two types of cardioversion are: 

  • Electrical cardioversion, using a special machine to shock the heart, triggering a normal rhythm. 
  • Pharmacologic cardioversion, using carefully selected medications to correct arrhythmias. 

When you have atrial fibrillation, this process is out of synch and your heart beats irregularly. You may feel symptoms such as: 

  • Rapid heartbeat 
  • A pounding feeling in your chest 
  • Chest pain 
  • Dizziness 
  • Lightheadedness 
  • Fatigue 

In rare cases, collapse and sudden cardiac arrest 

Arrhythmia Treatment Using Electric Cardioversion 

Using a cardioverter, our cardiac electrophysiologists deliver a low dose of electrical current to shock your heart back to a normal rhythm. 

Here’s how it works: 

  1. We may perform an imaging test called a transesophageal echocardiogram to make sure you do not have blood clots or other conditions that might cause complications.
  2. You receive an IV in your arm to deliver medication that puts you to sleep and controls pain.
  3. Our specialists place patches with electrodes on your chest and back. We also connect these electrodes to the cardioverter. 
  4. The patches deliver an electrical current to your chest. 
  5. This current produces a shock that stops the abnormal heartbeat and allows your heart to resume a normal rhythm. 

You should be able to go home a few hours after your procedure. You may need to take medications temporarily to prevent blood clots and keep your heart beating regularly. 

Pharmacologic Cardioversion at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center 

Under pharmacologic cardioversion, we use carefully selected medications to regulate your heartbeat. This form of treatment can take anywhere from several minutes to several days to be successful. You may also receive medications to take temporarily to prevent blood clots and keep your heart beating regularly. 

Treatments may include: 

  • Medications to control your heart rate. 
  • Medications to control your heart rhythm. 

Contact Us 

Request an appointment online. Or, for more information, please call: 

  • 336-716-WAKE or 
  • 888-716-WAKE (toll-free) 

Quick Reference

Heart & Vascular Center
New Patients

Local 336-716-WAKE
Toll-free 888-716-WAKE

Returning Patients

Vascular 336-716-4151
Heart 336-716-6674

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Last Updated: 05-26-2014
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Disclaimer: The information on this website is for general informational purposes only and SHOULD NOT be relied upon as a substitute for sound professional medical advice, evaluation or care from your physician or other qualified health care provider.