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 - Northwestern Memorial Hospital - Chicago


A cardioversion is a non-surgical procedure that can change, or "convert," an irregular heartbeat to a normal, regular rhythm.


The heart is a muscular organ about the size of a closed fist. It pumps oxygen-rich blood to the body. For the heart to do its work, it needs a "spark plug," or electrical impulse, to start a heartbeat. It receives this impulse or signal from special tissue (sinus node) in the heart. The electrical impulse causes the heart muscle to contract.

The heart's electrical system and muscle work together to effectively pump blood. Sometimes the heart beats irregularly. An irregular heartbeat can occur after heart attack or heart surgery. It may also occur with heart valve disease or other diseases not related to the heart. One cause of an irregular heartbeat is atrial fibrillation. Some people with atrial fibrillation have no symptoms. Others may feel palpitations, shortness of breath, weakness or fatigue during episodes of atrial fibrillation.

Your doctor may first use medicines to change your atrial fibrillation to a regular rhythm. If medicines do not work, an electrical cardioversion may be needed. This procedure uses small amounts of electrical current given through patches or paddles placed on the chest. The electrical current is used to restore your heart to a regular rhythm.


Center for Heart Rhythm Disorders
1-866-662-8467 (toll free)

Electrophysiology Department

Last UpdateSeptember 12, 2012