Cardioversion is a nonsurgical procedure used to convert an irregular heartbeat back to a normal rhythm.

Your heart has an electrical system that triggers your heart to beat. When your heart beats irregularly, it is called an arrhythmia. An arrhythmia can be harmless, a sign of other heart problems, or an immediate danger to your health.

Cardioversion is a method to return an irregular heart rhythm back to normal. At Wake Forest Baptist, out specialists in cardiac electrophysiology and cardiothoracic surgery offer 2 forms of cardioversion: electrical cardioversion and pharmacologic cardioversion.

We will discuss the options with you and choose the technique that offers you the best results.

Electrical Cardioversion

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

Prior to the procedure, 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.

During the procedure you will receive an IV in your arm to deliver medication that puts you to sleep and controls pain.

Our specialists place patches with electrodes on your chest and back and connect these electrodes to the cardioverter. The patches deliver an electrical current to your chest. 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 electric cardioversion. You may need to take medications temporarily to prevent blood clots and keep your heart beating regularly.

Pharmacologic Cardioversion

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 prevent blood clots and keep your heart beating regularly after pharmacologic cardioversion.