Atrial fibrillation is a condition characterized by a rapid and irregular heartbeat that can produce life-threatening complications, including heart failure, strokes, and numerous other heart conditions. For the heart to beat properly, the upper two chambers or atria and the lower two chambers or ventricles have to be in sync with each other. Atrial fibrillation occurs when the atria experience irregular and chaotic beating that discords from the ventricle rhythm. Symptoms of atrial fibrillation include breathlessness, heart palpitations, and weakness. Atrial fibrillation can be transient, or it may be chronic and consistent. Because atrial fibrillation causes blood stagnation in the atria, there is increased concern with the development of blood clots in these chambers. Blood clots travel around the body and cut off blood supply at the location where they become lodged.
An individual affected by atrial fibrillation due to certain underlying causes may need to undergo cardioversion as part of their treatment plan. Cardioversion is a procedure that intends to reset a patient's heart rhythm and rate to normal. There are two ways cardioversion can be accomplished. Electrical cardioversion is a type of cardioversion that utilizes electrical impulses to stop the electrical activity in the heart so it can restart at a normal rhythm. Cardioversion with drugs is a process where medications referred to as antiarrhythmics are utilized to revert the rhythm of the patient's heart back to normal. This process most often occurs in the setting of a hospital where the patient receives the antiarrhythmic drugs intravenously or by mouth. They are then closely monitored for some time to see if their heart rhythm reverts to normal. If the drug is successful at alleviating atrial fibrillation, it will be prescribed for the patient to take when they experience episodes of atrial fibrillation.