Cardioversion is a medical procedure that changes the rhythm of the heart after it experiences an arrhythmia, or abnormal heartbeat, or a sustained increased rate. Cardioversions are performed through a series of electrical shocks in order to return the heart to a normal rate and rhythm, according to National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.
National Health, Lung and Blood Institute states that medications are also sometimes used in an attempt to achieve cardioversion. Cardioversion procedures generally take place in an outpatient setting, and the patient is released to go home following treatment, states Mayo Clinic.
To perform cardioversion using electrical stimulation, the patient is sedated, and electrodes are attached to the chest, the American Heart Association explains. Equipment monitors the heart rhythm and rate as electrical currents shock the heart into a normal rhythm. This procedure generally takes only a few minutes to complete. For most people, electrocardioversion restores the heart's normal rhythm, but sometimes an individual needs more than one treatment to convert back to a normal rhythm, notes NHLBI.
Atrial fibrillation is a condition that is treated with both medication conversion and electrocardioversion. WebMD describes atrial fibrillation as a heart rate that is irregular and rapid. It can be intermittent, or it can be a constant arrhythmia, which requires treatment with cardioversion.