Locations across Queensland within Queensland Cardiovascular Group

Phone (07) 3016 1111


cardioversion treatment icon

What is Cardioversion?

Cardioversion is the term we use to describe the transition from an abnormal heart rhythm back into normal rhythm. Sometimes cardioversion can occur spontaneously, or can be assisted by medication (anti- arhythmic drug therapy). 

Cardioversion is also a procedure that uses a jolt of electricity to the heart to put the abnormal rhythm back in to normal rhythm.  This is more correctly known as electrical cardioversion or direct current cardioversion. 

Electrical Cardioversion is performed at hospital in a procedure room under intravenous sedation administered by an Anaesthetist.  A person whose heart rhythm is stuck in atrial fibrillation or atrial flutter and who does not spontaneously cardiovert with medication is the typical patient for this procedure.   

When the patient is deeply asleep, a high-energy shock is delivered through the defibrillation pads that have been placed on the front and back or side of the chest.  The jolt of electricity resets the abnormal heart rhythm to normal sinus rhythm. The anaesthetic is short duration and the patient will be asleep for less than 5 minutes. 

Electrical Cardioversion is a very safe procedure. It is commonly performed as an elective procedure as a day-case. Patients are usually able to leave the hospital after around 2 hours. 

How do I Prepare?

Your cardioversion will be performed as an inpatient (usually as a day case) and so you will require admission into hospital. You will be required to fast for at least 6 hours prior to the procedure.

Typically, you can continue to take your regular medications the morning of the procedure, unless your doctor advises otherwise. It is important to continue your anticoagulant medication. It is always best to bring a list of your medications with you to hospital. Also do not apply any lotions or ointments to your chest as it may interfere with the adhesiveness of the shocking pads.


What Should I Expect?

Your cardiologist will be performing the cardioversion, assisted by an anaesthetist and nursing staff. In general, you can expect the following:

  • Soft electrode pads are placed on your chest and maybe on your back. You might need some areas of skin shaved to get the electrode pads to stick. These electrodes will connect to the external cardioverter defibrillator machine.
  • An IV line (drip) will be placed in your arm and medications given to put you into a light sleep (you will be asleep for the entire procedure)
  • Some patients will also have a transoesophageal echocardiogram before a cardioversion is performed. 
  • Your electrocardiogram (ECG), oxygen saturation and other vital signs will be monitored during and after the procedure.
  • Using the external cardiac defibrillator, a shock is delivered to the heart through electrode pads or paddles that are applied to the skin.
  • While the procedure itself only takes a few minutes, you will remain in hospital for 2 hours after the cardioversion.
  • You will need to have someone to take you home after the procedure as you will not be able to drive for 24 hours after the procedure.


The Cardiologist will send a report electronically and via post or fax to your referring doctor. You will need to contact your referring doctor to discuss your results and any follow up that maybe required, including medications and appointments.