Diagnostic Testing



What is an electrical cardioversion?


A cardioversion is a brief procedure where a controlled electrical shock is delivered to the heart to covert or reset an abnormal heart rhythm to a normal rhythm. Elective or “non-emergency” cardioversion is most often performed to convert atrial fibrillation or atrial flutter. These irregular rhythm patterns start in the upper chambers, or atrium, of the heart.


Where is the procedure performed?


A cardioversion is done in the Cardiac Services Department of Cayuga Medical Center. It is scheduled for a minor procedure room where you will be monitored and prepared to receive moderate sedation.


How do I prepare?


Your physician will schedule the procedure and instruct you about which of your medications you should take beforehand. Take those medications on your regular schedule with a small amount of water. Otherwise you should not eat or drink anything for at least 8 hours before the procedure. Your physician may arrange for lab blood work to be drawn and processed prior to the cardioversion.


Please bring all of your medications with you to the appointment so we can verify your current medication dosages and schedules.


It will be unsafe for you to drive for the remainder of the day after receiving sedation, so please arrange for someone to provide you with a ride home.


What can I expect during the procedure?


When you arrive at the Outpatient Services area of the hospital, you will be greeted by a member of the cardiac services staff and escorted to the procedure room. At that time a brief review of your medical history will be done, along with baseline vital signs and any essential tests which need to be completed before hand.


You will be connected to a monitor that displays your heart beat, blood pressure, and oxygen level. Your cardiac nurse will start an IV (intravenous) line through which you will receive fluids and sedative medications for the procedure.


You will also be connected to the cardioverter machine. Two large patches will be applied to your chest to deliver the electrical shock for the actual cardioversion attempt. Oxygen is applied to your nose to breath during the administration of sedation. The cardiologist is present in the room when everything is ready. She or he will actually coordinate the sedation and deliver the synchronized, controlled electrical shock to your chest wall for the cardioversion.


After the cardioversion has been done, a 12 lead EKG will be obtained to confirm return to normal sinus (regular) rhythm. You will be monitored for a period of time to insure safe recovery from moderate sedation. You may experience some minor skin discomfort or irritation from the patches that were applied to your chest.


In some situations the actual cardioversion may be preceded by a transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE), a special ultrasound wave study (sonogram) to evaluate the structures and chambers of your heart. This is done to insure that your heart chambers do not contain any problems which might complicate the safety of doing the cardioversion.


When can I go home?


After the cardioversion is complete we will monitor you for a period of time while you sleep off the effects of the sedation medications. When you are awake enough to control your swallowing, you may be allowed some fluids to drink. Once you are able to meet the criteria for safe recovery from sedation you will be discharged and may leave the medical center in the company of an adult relative or friend, who will drive you safely home. The recovery criteria include having a stable blood pressure, heart rate, and oxygen level; being awake and alert enough to be aware of your surroundings; and being able to sit up and stand without lightheadedness or dizziness.

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