Non-anaesthetists often use medications such as diazepam and midazolam to soothe pain during cardioversion procedures, while anaesthetists utilize general anaesthetics such as propofol or etomidate, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information. The aim is to induce moderate to deep sedative effects in the patients.
During an electrical cardioversion, the patient receives sedative drugs before the doctor delivers electrical shocks with paddles placed on the patient's chest and back. More than one shock may be necessary to reset the heartbeat, says the American Heart Association. The procedure generally takes around 30 minutes. Upon awakening, the patient usually does not remember the shock. A nurse observes the patient for at least one hour following the cardioversion. The patient may feel drowsy for the rest of the day and should not drive or participate in any other activities that require concentration or clarity of thought.
A patient with atrial fibrillation may have blood clots in her heart's left atrium. Cardioversion may dislodge the blood clot and potentially cause a stroke. Doctors can use transesophageal echocardiography to inspect the patient's heart for blood clots before performing cardioversion and may prescribe a blood thinner after the procedure if necessary, states the American Heart Association.