A heart shock may restore the heart’s rhythm and is a potential treatment for atrial fibrillation (AFib). Doctors also refer to heart shock as electrical cardioversion.
If a person’s heart has an atypical rate or rhythm, which doctors call arrhythmia, it
This article explores what AFib is in further detail. It also explains what a heart shock is, the potential risks of the procedure, and what it involves. Finally, the article discusses other treatments for AFib.
In AFib, a person has an irregular, quivering heartbeat. This arrhythmia
This atypical heart rhythm may cause changes in a person’s blood pressure and heart function, which can lead to serious conditions, such as stroke.
People with AFib can be asymptomatic, which means they do not experience any symptoms and may be unaware of their condition. However, when symptoms occur, they can
- an irregular and fast heartbeat
- a thumping in the chest
- feeling faint
- shortness of breath
- pressure or pain in the chest
A heart shock, which doctors refer to as electrical cardioversion, is
The electrical signals that control someone’s heartbeat begin in the atria, and people with AFib have fast, irregular electrical impulses moving through these chambers.
In a heart shock procedure, doctors use electrodes, or paddles, to administer a short electrical shock to the heart. This briefly stops the heart, which allows the electrical impulses in the atria to reset into a regular, natural rhythm.
There are some risks involved in electrical cardioversion. These
- skin irritation in the areas where the doctor places the paddles
- a person’s natural heart rhythm may not return, their AFib may worsen, and they may still require medication or surgery
- a blood clot may loosen and travel to the brain, where it can cause a stroke
A doctor may give a person blood thinning medication for
A healthcare professional
- A healthcare professional will sedate a person by administering an anesthetic through an intravenous line going into the vein to make them sleepy and prevent them from feeling pain.
- They will place a paddle on the patient’s back or chest, or they may place both paddles on the chest.
- They will then deliver an electric shock to briefly stop and reset a person’s heart rhythm.
- In some cases, people only require a single shock. The doctor will check a person’s heartbeat to determine whether they need further shocks.
The procedure is typically short and painless, and people can generally go home on the day of their electrical cardioversion.
Various other treatments are available for AFib,
Medications for AFib
- calcium channel blockers, such as diltiazem and verapamil, slow a person’s heart rate
- sodium channel blockers and potassium channel blockers to help restore a person’s typical heart rhythm
- beta-blockers, such as metoprolol, bisoprolol, and atenolol, which slow a person’s heart rate
- anticoagulant medications, such as rivaroxaban or apixaban, to prevent blood clots from forming
- digoxin, which slows electrical currents in the upper chambers of the heart
Lifestyle changes for AFib
- regular physical activity
- a diet that promotes heart health
- maintaining a moderate weight
- quitting smoking, if applicable
- managing stress
- limiting alcohol and stimulants such as caffeine
- seeking help to stop using substances
Surgery for AFib
AFib is an arrhythmia that affects the atria, or upper chambers, of the heart. It occurs when electrical impulses in the atria malfunction and cause an irregular heartbeat. It can lead to severe complications, such as heart failure and stroke.
A heart shock, or electrical cardioversion, involves doctors administering an electrical shock through electrodes on the chest or back. The heart shock briefly stops the electrical impulses in a person’s heart and allows them to reset to a typical, regular rhythm.
There are some risks involved in electrical cardioversion. The most serious risk is a blood clot becoming loose and moving to the brain, where it can cause a stroke. However, doctors may prescribe anticoagulant medication a few weeks before the procedure to lower this risk.
Other treatments for AFib involve various medications to control the rhythm and rate of the heart, surgery, and lifestyle changes.
A person can speak with a doctor to determine which treatment options may be best for them.