It is a medical procedure performed to restore abnormal heartbeat of the patient to a normal rhythm. Irregular or fast heartbeat is termed as an arrhythmia which makes your heart unable to pump enough blood to your body. In this case, the patient may succumb to heart attack, stroke or an unexpected cardiac arrest.
Your doctor may recommend cardioversion under the following conditions:
• Its symptoms include shortness of breath, dizziness, chest discomfort or excessive fatigue.
• If you’re suffering from arrhythmia which is causing irregularities on the heart function
The doctor may put you through transesophageal echocardiogram where a thin flexible tube called catheter conjoined with a transducer is put down into your throat leading to the esophagus, which connects your mouth to your stomach. It is a transducer that helps the doctor in taking more vivid images of your heart to check for blood clots.
Usually, drinks and food are not allowed for nearly 12 hours before the procedure. Since you’re exposed to the formation of dangerous blood clots, the doctor may prescribe an anti-clotting drug for a few weeks before and even after the medical treatment.
The procedure of cardioversion is performed in a specially equipped intensive care unit (ICU) or an emergency department. Your heart rate, rhythm, breathing rate, oxygen level, and blood pressure are examined. You will be given heavy sedation as the shock can be very painful.
Following that, the doctor or nurse will put paddles or electrode patches onto your chest – one patch close to the right upper chest and the other one is placed either on the back or lower left chest. Then a stream of electric current is passed through these patches; most of which is absorbed by the chest and some is channeled to the heart.
It takes 5-10 minutes to come back to the conscious state after the procedure after the effect of sedation subsides.
After the procedure, the team of health care closely monitors you for any signs of complications. You may still be in a semi-conscious state because of the effect of the drug so you’ll need someone who can drive you home.
Besides, there may be some soreness or redness on your chest where the paddles were placed which will disappear within a few days.
In addition to these, your doctor may ask you to:
• Quit smoking
• Maintain your body weight and eat light and healthy
• Avoid heavy medications that contain stimulants that may set off a rapid heartbeat
• Avoid or limit the intake of caffeine
RISK AND COMPLICATIONS
• Damage to the heart tissues
• Sedative drugs are given to you before the procedure so that you don’t feel pain, but it can cause pneumonia or difficulty in breathing
• Skin burning sensation or pain due to shocks are given during the procedure
The procedure usually costs from 3-4 lakh rupees.