Your doctor may suggest to treat your AF with a procedure called cardioversion, which takes place in a hospital and is typically a short, 10-minute procedure. While in hospital, you will be closely monitored throughout.1 Most patients go home on the same day as their cardioversion is done, but on rare occasions you may need to stay in the hospital overnight to monitor your recovery.4
What to expect during cardioversion
Cardioversion usually involves giving a short electric shock to your heart, using sticky pads or patches that will be placed onto your chest. This encourages your heart to signal correctly and helps to restore your heart’s normal rhythm.1,3
Your healthcare team will give you all the information that you need to help you feel as comfortable as possible. They will also give you a sedative, so you will not feel the electric shock.3 If you are concerned about your cardioversion, speak to your doctor.
If your AF has lasted longer than 2 days, cardioversion may increase the risk of a blood clot
In this case, your doctor will usually give you a medication called an anticoagulant for 3 to 4 weeks before the procedure takes place and for at least 4 weeks after cardioversion.1 This medicine will help decrease the chance of you having a stroke as a result of a blood clot formed by your AF, so it is very important to take your medication exactly as prescribed.1 If you need to have cardioversion in an emergency, you may not have time to take medication beforehand. In this case, pictures of your heart will be taken beforehand and throughout the procedure to check for potential blood clots.1
Even after successfully restoring your heart back to its normal rhythm, you may need to continue taking an anticoagulant to help reduce the risk of a stroke, if your doctor is concerned that you are still at risk of blood clots forming.1
Like all medical procedures, cardioversion may have some risks
However, if your doctor has suggested cardioversion to treat your AF, it is because they consider the benefits of the procedure to outweigh the risks. If your doctor recommends cardioversion to treat your AF, they will discuss its potential risks with you.4
How to prepare for cardioversion
Your healthcare team will usually schedule your cardioversion some time before the procedure actually takes place, unless cardioversion is required as an emergency.4
You should not eat or drink for about 8 hours before cardioversion. If your doctor has told you that you need to continue to take your usual medicine and you require water to swallow tablets, drink only enough water to allow you to do so.4
You may need to have another procedure called transoesophageal echocardiogram, also known as TEE, before cardioversion to check for potential blood clots in your heart. However, not everyone needs TEE before cardioversion.4 Your doctor may decide that you need TEE if they are concerned that cardioversion may dislodge blood clots in your heart, which could lead to complications.
If your healthcare team finds any blood clots during TEE your cardioversion may be delayed for 3 to 4 weeks, while you take medicines, to reduce the risk of new blood clots forming.4