Chemical Cardioversion: Care Instructions

Skip Navigation
Cross section of the heart showing its electrical system


Cardioversion resets your heart's rhythm to its normal pattern. It treats heart rhythm problems like atrial fibrillation or supraventricular tachycardia.

Chemical cardioversion uses rhythm-control medicines to reset your heart. They can also help keep your heart in a normal rhythm after it has been reset.

You may take this medicine as pills. Or you may get it in your arm through a tube called an I.V.

If you have an I.V., it will be done in the hospital. If you use the pills, you might take them in the hospital.

Your doctor may ask you to take other medicines before your cardioversion. They can help keep blood clots from forming. And they can prevent the heart-rate problem from coming back.

Sometimes the heart rate doesn't go back to normal. Or it may reset for a while and then go back to an uneven rate.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Talk to your doctor about the benefits and risks of these medicines. They might cause serious side effects. Your doctor will want to see you often. Be sure to go to all of your doctor visits.
  • Take your medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor if you think you are having a problem with your medicine.
  • Check with your doctor or pharmacist before you use any other medicines. This includes over-the-counter medicines. Make sure your doctor knows all of the medicines, vitamins, herbal products, and supplements you take. Taking some medicines together can cause problems.
  • Have a heart-healthy lifestyle.
    • Don't smoke.
    • Be active.
    • Eat heart-healthy foods and limit or avoid alcohol.
    • Stay at a healthy weight. Lose weight if you need to.
    • Manage other health problems. If you think you may have a problem with alcohol or drug use, talk to your doctor.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You passed out (lost consciousness).
  • You have symptoms of a heart attack. These may include:
    • Chest pain or pressure, or a strange feeling in the chest.
    • Sweating.
    • Shortness of breath.
    • Nausea or vomiting.
    • Pain, pressure, or a strange feeling in your back, neck, jaw, or upper belly or in one or both shoulders or arms.
    • Lightheadedness or sudden weakness.
    • A fast or irregular heartbeat.

After you call 911, the operator may tell you to chew 1 adult-strength or 2 to 4 low-dose aspirin. Wait for an ambulance. Do not try to drive yourself.

  • You have symptoms of a stroke. These may include:
    • Sudden numbness, tingling, weakness, or loss of movement in your face, arm, or leg, especially on only one side of your body.
    • Sudden vision changes.
    • Sudden trouble speaking.
    • Sudden confusion or trouble understanding simple statements.
    • Sudden problems with walking or balance.
    • A sudden, severe headache that is different from past headaches.

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You are dizzy or lightheaded, or you feel like you may faint.
  • You have a fast or irregular heartbeat.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if you are having any problems.

The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.