If you have ever seen a movie or television show depicting a medical emergency where the patient is being shocked, you already know what electrical cardioversion is. A set of electrical paddles is kept in every emergency room and in the back of every ambulance simply because this medical device is capable of saving lives in a split second. However, medical professionals do not use this tool unless there is no other option. This is because electrical conversion comes with a unique set of benefits and drawbacks.
The biggest risk involved with electrical fibrilliation patients can sometimes develop blood clots. If these blood clots are large enough, the patient could have a stroke. Because atrial fibrillation is only performed in professional medical settings, patients will have their heart rates and blood pressure closely monitored until they are stabilized. This can take anywhere from ½ an hour to several days.
Another potential risk of this procedure is that cardiac arrhythmia can develop. When the heart is shocked, it may return to a normal rate for a period of time, but then it can speed up or slow down unexpectedly. The heart can also suddenly stop. Usually, a few more well timed shocks can help to stabilize the heart, but this is a risk that doctors have to take when the lives of their patients are at stake.
Generally, risk factors for heart disease will not go up if you receive electrical conversion, but you may be more at risk of having a stroke. Not all causes of irregular heartbeat are known, however, some are genetically predisposed to developing flutters and murmurs. Obesity, diabetes and heart disease can also cause you to develop an irregular heartbeat.
In almost all instances, electrical cardioversion is performed when the patient is already on the brink of death. You will likely have no recollection of the events and you will not feel any pain while the electric paddles are in use. Without this life saving devices thousands of people will have already have met their demise. There are currently no other similar procedures are can be used as a substitute for electrical fibrillation.