Ward 32 West began the Direct Current Cardioversion (DCR) program last June. Since then, there has been a marked improvement in access to this specialised care for our patients who suffer from atrial fibrillation and other abnormal heart rhythms. These conditions have imposed a growing burden on the healthcare system, a situation the DCR program is helping to address.
Cardioversion is the process of converting an abnormal heart rhythm (arrhythmia) to a normal rhythm. A Direct Current Cardioversion (DCR), also known as electrical cardioversion, is a procedure in which a very brief electrical current is delivered to the heart to restore normal rhythm.
A total of 170 DCR’s have been completed in 32 West in six months. Prior to the commencement of the program, the average wait time for our patients was 10-12 weeks. This has dramatically improved to an average wait of two weeks.
The program is led by cardiac rhythm nurse Melissa Harvey and nurse manager Radhika John. It has been a wonderful collaboration between the anaesthetic department and MonashHeart that is improving access to care for our patients.
The DCR program on 32 West is also supporting the development of our cardiac nursing workforce as we move closer to the opening of the Victorian Heart Hospital (VHH). With the support of clinical coach Sher Graan, the Ward 32 West postgraduate students are taking part in this program to support their learning and development.
The most likely reason patients require a DCR is that they have an abnormal heart rhythm (arrhythmia) such as atrial flutter or atrial fibrillation. In these arrhythmias, the atria (upper chambers of the heart) beat very fast or quiver. Because of this abnormal beating, blood is not circulated effectively around the body. Not all patients experience symptoms, however some may experience symptoms including palpitations (heart racing), dizziness, shortness of breath and tiredness. In some patients, the arrhythmia can affect heart function.
Medications to try to correct the arrhythmia (chemical cardioversion) do not always work and so a successful DCR can restore the heart rhythm to normal (known as sinus rhythm) and enable patients to feel better.