Q: What is electrical cardioversion? 

Electrical cardioversion is done to reset the abnormal rhythm (such as atrial fibrillation) of the heart with a quick electric shock. You will be given sleeping medication prior to the therapy. You should not feel any pain. Your doctor will put patches on your chest. Or you might get them on both your chest and back. They send a small electric current through your body to your heart. In most situations, this immediately restores the heart's regular rhythm.

Cardioversion itself takes about 5 minutes. But the whole procedure will likely take about 30 to 45 minutes. That includes time to recover. Abnormal heart rhythms sometimes come back after the treatment. You may need to take medication to help your heart keep its normal rhythm. 

The importance of follow-up care in your treatment and safety cannot be overstated. Make sure not to miss any of your appointments, and if you have any concerns, call your doctor. It's also a good idea to keep track of your test results and the medications you're taking. 

Q: How do you prepare for the electrical cardioversion procedure? 

Medical procedures can be stressful. This information will assist you in determining what to expect and how to prepare for your procedure.

  • For your safety, we ask that you comply with the following food intake instructions. Failure to do so may result in the rescheduling of your procedure. Do not eat anything after midnight prior to your procedure. You may drink any of the following liquids up until 2 hours prior to your procedure time:
    •  Water 
    • Gatorade, Gatorade Zero, Powerade, Powerade Zero
    • Fruit juices without pulp 
    • Carbonated beverages 
    • Consumption of Black Coffee or Clear Tea without milk or creamer, sugar or sweetener is permitted.
  • Ensure that you have someone to drive you home. You will not be able to drive or get home on your own due to anaesthesia and pain medication.
  • Understand the process in detail, as well as the risks, advantages, and possible alternatives.
  • Ask your doctor if you should stop taking aspirin or any other blood thinner before the procedure. Make sure that you understand exactly what your doctor wants you to do. These medicines increase the risk of bleeding.
  • Tell your doctor about all the medicines, vitamins, supplements, and herbal remedies you take. Some may increase the risk of complications during your procedure. Your doctor will tell you if you should stop taking any of them before the procedure and how soon to do it.
  • Make sure your doctor and the hospital have a copy of your advance directive. If you don't have one, you may want to prepare one. It lets others know your health care wishes. It's a good thing to have before any type of surgery or procedure.
  • If you have diabetes, ask the doctor how to adjust your diabetes medication(s).
  • If you take an anticoagulant (“blood thinner”), such as Coumadin (warfarin), ask the doctor for specific guidelines about taking it on the day of the procedure.
  • Continue to take all of your medications as prescribed on the day of the procedure, but take them with only small sips of water.

Q: What happens on the day of the electrical cardioversion procedure?

  • Follow the instructions exactly about when to stop eating and drinking. If you don't, your procedure may be canceled. If your doctor told you to take your medicines on the day of the procedure, take them with only a sip of water.
  • Take a bath or shower before you come in for your procedure. Do not apply lotions, perfumes, deodorants, or nail polish. 
  • Take off all jewelry and piercings. And take out your contact lenses, if you wear them.

When should you call your doctor?

  • If you missed a dose of your blood thinner medication, Eliquis, Pradaxa, Xarelto, and/or Savaysa within 21 days of your procedure: Failure to notify the office of a missed dose may result in the cancellation of the procedure. 
  • If you are taking Warfarin (Coumadin), make sure to have your INR checked within 1 week of your procedure and notify your care team.
  • You have questions or concerns.
  • You don't understand how to prepare for your procedure.
  • You become ill before the procedure (such as a fever, flu, or a cold).
  • You need to reschedule or have changed your mind about having the procedure.


1. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.healthwise.net/rxhealth/Content/StdDocument.aspx?DOCHWID=zu2282

2. Electrical Cardioversion for Atrial Fibrillation (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.cigna.com/individuals-families/health-wellness/hw/medical-topics/electrical-cardioversion-for-atrial-fibrillation-hw160011