Cardioversion and defibrillation

Am Heart J. 1980 Dec;100(6 Pt 1):881-95. doi: 10.1016/0002-8703(80)90071-x.


The use of electrical energy for the immediate treatment of atrial and ventricular arrhythmias is practical and easily applied. The method, though simple, is the most effective method for terminating cardiac arrhythmias and is associated with only a low risk if properly employed. In symptomatic patients, the utilization of cardioversion reduces patient discomfort and complications which may occur while awaiting pharmacologic reversion of arrhythmia. At present, transthoracic defibrillation is the only practical method for terminating VF. Despite the safety of electrical reversion, proper precautions are necessary to prevent complications. In particular, the discharge of excessive energies, especially in the presence of digitalis toxicity, promises grave and life-threatening consequences. The use of antiarrhythmic medications is not supplanted by cardioversion and defibrillation. Rather, ongoing drug therapy is frequently necessary to prevent recurrence of arrhythmia.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arrhythmias, Cardiac / complications
  • Arrhythmias, Cardiac / physiopathology
  • Atrial Fibrillation / physiopathology
  • Atrial Flutter / physiopathology
  • Cardiac Catheterization
  • Diazepam
  • Electric Countershock* / methods
  • Embolism / complications
  • Energy Metabolism
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mitral Valve Insufficiency / physiopathology
  • Phenobarbital
  • Pregnancy
  • Pulmonary Edema / complications
  • Recurrence
  • Thorax / physiopathology
  • Time Factors
  • Ventricular Fibrillation / physiopathology


  • Diazepam
  • Phenobarbital