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Through electricity or drug therapy , cardioversion converts heart arrhythmias to normal rhythms.

Similar to defibrillation, cardioversion differs in that it uses much lower electricity levels. Cardioversion may also be done through medication instead of an electrical shock.

In the case of electrical shock, the patient lies flatly on the back with an electrical conducting pad placed on the lower back and the upper chest. These pads are connected to an ECG machine which is also capable of delivering current. When the patient is sedated, the technician delivers a shock and checks the ECG for sinus rhythm. The shocks can be performed until sinus rhythm is attained or when further electrical shocks could cause burning of the epidermis. When the patient is successfully cardioverted, he/she is administered a heart-stimulant. The patient is monitored for half an hour to ensure stability of the sinus rhythm. The risks are minimal and the patient feels very little during the procedure.

Electrical cardioversion is used to treat heart problems such as atrial fibrillation and atrial flutter. In the case of ventricular arrhythmias (such as ventricular fibrillation), a defibrillator is used, and the pace of the procedure is much faster due to the life-threatening circumstances.

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Last updated: 08-19-2005 09:21:43