RisksBy Mayo Clinic staff
Complications of electric cardioversion are rare, and doctors can take steps to reduce your risk. Major risks of cardioversion include:
- Dislodged blood clots. Some people who have arrhythmias have blood clots in their hearts. Electric cardioversion can cause these blood clots to move to other parts of your body, which can cause life-threatening complications, such as a stroke or a blood clot traveling to your lungs (pulmonary embolism). If necessary, your doctor may prescribe blood-thinning medications before the procedure or will check for blood clots in your heart before cardioversion.
- Abnormal heart rhythm. In rare cases, some people who undergo cardioversion end up with other heart rhythm problems during or after their procedure. This is a rare complication. If it happens, it usually shows up only minutes after your procedure, so your doctor can give you medications or additional shocks to correct the problem.
- Skin burns. Rarely, some people have minor burns on their skin where their electrodes were placed.
Pregnant women can have cardioversion, but it's recommended that the baby's heartbeat is monitored during the procedure.
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- Podrid PJ. Basic principles and technique for cardioversion and defibrillation. http://www.uptodate.com/home/index.html. Accessed March 4, 2011.
- Nagarakanti R, et al. Dabigatran versus warfarin in patients with atrial fibrillation: An analysis of patients undergoing cardioversion. Circulation. 2011;123:131.