Question

Atrial Fibrillation

Does cardioversion always work to stop atrial fibrillation?

A Answers (2)

  • AMichael Roizen, MD, Internal Medicine, answered
    Unlike most electronic devices, cardioversion for atrial fibrillation, like most medical procedures, unfortunately doesn’t come with a warranty guaranteeing complete customer satisfaction. Typically, cardioversion is successful about 75% to 90% of the time. The not-so-great news is that many of these patients end up with fluttering hearts again. Long-term success for cardioversion is better if you haven’t had a-fib for very long and your heart doesn’t have significant structural damage or defects.
  • ADouglas Severance, Family Medicine, answered
    There are no guarantees with any treatment for atrial fibrillation. Sometimes, it takes several tries for cardioversion to work. Cardioversion is a procedure that delivers electrical shocks to convert the fast, uneven heart rate of atrial fibrillation back to a regular, "sinus" heart rhythm. If you initially have a successful cardioversion, but your abnormal heart rhythm returns after a few days, you may have to undergo the procedure again. Your doctor may also change your medications, which can help restore an irregular heartbeat to normal with the cardioversion.

    In some people with atrial fibrillation, the problem goes away on its own, without treatment. For other patients, the abnormal heart rate does not respond to any medication, cardioversion, or even surgery, so they end up living with this disorder long-term. You will need to work closely with your doctor when seeking treatment for atrial fibrillation.
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What if my atrial fibrillation cannot be converted to a regular rhythm?