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Success rate of Electrical Cardioverision for Atrial Fibrilation

    I am 71 years old, 6 ft., 172 lbs., colesterol 147.  My mitral valve and one other leak or have backwash.  I was dignosed with rheumatic fever at age 9.  I was also diagnosed with heart murmur.  I serve in the navy during WWII and again during the Korean Conflict.  Twice in 40 years a physical suggested a murmur but practically all annual physicals reveiled no murmur. Three months ago I was diagnosed as having ventricular fibrilation   I am currently on 0.125MG Digoxin daily and 5MG Warfarin 5 days and 2.5MG 2 days weekly.
    Over this period of time I have had Warfarin dosage altered slightly three times.  Taking blood samples has caused me grief because of probing for veins has caused black and blue areas too frequently.  The thought of continual problems and unknown toxicity causes me concern.
    My family doctor (an internal medicine specialist) has referred me to two possible doctors to discuss electrial shock to the heart.  I suppose this means Electrical Cardioversion (My medical dictionary of 1960 does not include this subject).  My doctor has not given me any specifics on success rates, mortality rates or longivity of successful cardioversion procedures.
    I don't know the skills of the local heart specialists.  I would like to know more about risks and successes before going in for consultation.
                        Thanks, Scott  
Dear Scott
Electrical cardioversion for atrial fibrillation has variable success rates. The longer you have been in afib, the less likely the procedure will succeed. If you have leaky or tight valves, that makes long term success  much less likely. If you are on certain medicines, that can increase the chances of successful electrical conversion.
The risks are rare. You can have a stroke, though this is even more uncommon if you have been on a therapeutic dose of coumadin for a while. The electric shock can rarely induce another life threatening heart rhythm disturbance.
I hope you find this information useful.  Information provided in the heart forum is for general purposes only.  Only your physician can provide specific diagnoses and therapies. Please feel free to write back with additional questions.
If you would like to make an appointment at the Cleveland Clinic Heart Center, please call 1-800-CCF-CARE or inquire online by using the Heart Center website at www.ccf.org/heartcenter.   The Heart Center website contains a directory of the cardiology staff that can be used to select the physician best suited to address your cardiac problem.

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