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Treatment: Cardioversion

In cardioversion, sometimes known as defibrillation, a brief electric shock is given to the heart using a device called a defibrillator. The shock can return the heartbeat to its normal rhythm. The defibrillator produces an electric current that passes between two metal plates, or paddles, which are placed on the patient’s chest. Cardioversion is performed under general anaesthesia to treat some arrhythmias (abnormal heart rates and rhythms). It is also often performed as an emergency treatment for cardiac arrest. An automatic defibrillator has been developed that can diagnose heart rhythm problems and deliver the correct therapy, without the need for a medically trained operator.

Emergency cardioversion

Emergency treatment of cardiac arrest involves giving one or more electric shocks to the heart through the chest wall. Breathing is maintained by inflating the lungs using a breathing bag. The person using the bag temporarily stops and lets go each time a shock is delivered.

From the 2010 revision of the Complete Home Medical Guide © Dorling Kindersley Limited.

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