If you’ve been diagnosed with an arrhythmia, this means that your heart beats too quickly or erratically. Up to 5% of the general population has an irregular heartbeat, and the severity of the condition can range from minor to needing intervention.
If your arrhythmia can benefit from intervention, a cardioversion may be among your options. Here at South Shore Cardiovascular Associates, our team of heart health experts has a good deal of experience helping patients with arrhythmias, and cardioversion is a great tool in our arsenal.
Here’s a look at how we can help your heart beat more regularly with cardioversion.
Understanding your heartbeat
To understand how cardioversion works, it’s helpful to take a step back to review how your heart beats. Your heartbeats are created by an electrical system called your cardiac conduction system.
Each beat starts with an impulse from the sinoatrial node in the upper right chamber of your heart. From there, an electrical current passes from your heart’s upper chambers, through a group of pacemaker cells down to the lower chambers. This electrical activity causes the four chambers of your heart to contract and relax, forcing blood through the organ and out into your body.
When you have an arrhythmia, there’s a problem somewhere in this conduction system that’s causing your heart to beat rapidly or irregularly, which can put you at risk for heart disease.
Restoring rhythm through cardioversion
When you have a problematic arrhythmia, our goal is to get your heart to beat more regularly, which is where cardioversion comes in.
There are two ways in which we can perform a cardioversion:
1. Chemical cardioversion
With a chemical cardioversion, we give you medications, either orally or intravenously, which work quickly to regulate the rhythm of your heart.
2. Electrical cardioversion
An even faster approach is with an electrical cardioversion, a procedure in which we deliver electrical shocks into your body to reset your heart. In reality, this procedure is the same as an emergency defibrillation, in which paddles are used to restore your heartbeat.
With a planned electrical cardioversion, the procedure is far less hectic than it is during an emergency, to be sure. We schedule the procedure, supply you with preparation instructions (usually no eating or drinking after midnight the night before), and you meet us at the appointed time.
Before we get started, we supply you with a sedative. Then, once you’re ready, we administer the electrical shocks through electrodes that are placed on your body. Once we finish — the process should only take minutes — we check to make sure everything went well, and you’re free to return home. Do note that you should have someone drive you after your appointment.
Whichever approach we use for your cardioversion, this procedure is designed to reset your heart’s rhythm for the long term. If you support your cardioversion with heart-healthy habits at home, such as eating healthy and exercising, your cardioversion may remedy your arrhythmia once and for all.
If you have more questions about cardioversion, just book an appointment online or over the phone with South Shore Cardiovascular Associates today. We have offices in Brandon, Riverview, Tampa, and Sun City Center, Florida.