Cardioversion

Animation Movie AvailableRelated Media: Treating Atrial Fibrillation

Definition

Cardioversion is the delivery of an electric shock to the chest through electrodes or paddles. The shock is given to correct a dangerous heart rhythm.Cardioversion can be done as an elective (scheduled) procedure or may be done urgently if an abnormal heartbeat is immediately life-threatening.
External Cardioversion
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Reasons for Procedure

If the heart is not beating regularly, it may prevent the normal circulation of blood through the body. This may deprive various organs, including the brain and heart, of oxygen. Without oxygen, the organs cannot properly function and will eventually die.In atrial fibrillation, the electrical signals from the atria are fast and irregular. The atria quiver, rather than contract. Some signals do not reach the ventricles and the ventricles continue pumping, usually irregularly and sometimes rapidlyNon-emergency cardioversion may be used to treat the following conditions:
  • Atrial fibrillation —very rapid, irregular quivering in the atrium; ventricles pump irregularly
  • Atrial flutter —rapid but regular contractions in the atrium, when the ventricular heart rate is not too fast
Emergency cardioversion may be used to treat the following types of irregular heartbeats, which can lead to death if they are not immediately converted to a more normal rhythm:
  • Atrial tachycardia —rapid beating of the heart, originating in the atrium with rapid ventricular heart rate
  • Ventricular tachycardia—rapid beating of the heart, originating in the ventricle
  • Ventricular fibrillation —rapid movement of the ventricular muscle without effective pumping (may be a fatal)

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