Q:

What is the difference between cardioversion and defibrillation?

A:

Quick Answer

According to Medscape, defibrillation is a process that delivers electrical energy to the heart during any phase of the cardiac cycle, whereas electrical cardioversion is synchronized to deliver electrical energy on the R wave, or the QRS complex. Medscape states that cardioversion is usually not emergent and is performed using sedation. Conversely, Medscape reveals that defibrillation is an emergent maneuver and sedation is usually not given beforehand.

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The indications for cardioversion and defibrillation also differ. Medscape states that a cardioversion may be performed when a person has atrial fibrillation, atrial flutter, stable ventricular tachycardia or supraventricular tachycardia. In addition, Medscape states cardioversion may be performed on any unstable person that has a reentrant tachycardia with a rate greater than 150 beats per minute. Medscape defines the person as unstable if chest pain, hypotension or pulmonary edema are present. Defibrillation may occur if a patient has pulseless ventricular tachycardia, ventricular fibrillation or cardiac arrest resulting in ventricular fibrillation, as stated by Medscape.

Similar complications may occur during or after defibrillation and cardioversion. Medline Plus, Medscape and the American Heart Association state that a person may have burning or pain where the electrodes are placed, worsening of the arrhythmia or thromboembolism. Thromboembolism is the release of a blood clot which can travel to the brain, causing a stroke.

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Related Questions

  • Q:

    What is the difference between atrial fibrillation and a heart flutter?

    A:

    Atrial fibrillation, or AF, results when the heart’s electrical activity is chaotic and when atrial walls quiver rather than contract; heart flutter results in coordinated electrical activity, contracting atrial walls, but at a very rapid rate, according to Merck Manuals. AF is the most common type of arrhythmia.

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  • Q:

    What is TEE cardioversion?

    A:

    TEE, or transesophageal echocardiogram, is an imaging test that makes sure the heart does not have any blood clots, according to WebMD. This test is done before cardioversion treatment to correct heart arrhythmias.

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  • Q:

    Can cardioversion cause a stroke?

    A:

    Cardioversion can cause stroke if it dislodges a blood clot in the left atrium, which travels to the brain causing stroke, as stated by the American Heart Association. Blood clots in the left atrium are usually formed due to a condition called atrial fibrillation. To avoid the occurrence of stroke, a doctor will prescribe medication that helps to inhibit clotting, such as warfarin.

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  • Q:

    Is cardioversion a painful procedure?

    A:

    Cardioversion is painful, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information. The discomfort is comparable to a surgical incision, so deep sedation or general anaesthesia is used. This reduces pain sensations and also limits the body's stress response during the procedure.

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