Electrophysiologists commonly treat patients with arrhythmias and atrial fibrillation. An arrhythmia is an abnormal heart rhythm occurring when the heart beats too fast or too slow. Arrhythmias are considered serious when the heart cannot effectively pump blood. An arrhythmia may not cause any symptoms. However, a physician can detect an irregular heartbeat during a physical exam by taking the patient’s pulse, listening to the heart or by performing diagnostic tests.
Symptoms May Include:
- Pounding in the chest
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Shortness of breath
- Chest discomfort
- Weakness or fatigue
One of the most common types of arrhythmia treated here and at our clinical affiliate, UMass Memorial Health Care, is atrial fibrillation. If this condition cannot be treated with medication, patients are referred for ablation therapies, which use radiofrequency energy to help cure this condition.
An electrophysiology (EP) test studies the conduction or electrical system of the heart by recording electrical activity from within the heart chambers. Thin wires are advanced into the heart through a small tube , known as a catheter, to see if the irregular heartbeat can be reproduced. AN EP study allows physicians to study heart rhythm disturbances (arrhythmias) in a controlled setting.
Cardioversion converts an irregular heart rhythm (such as atrial fibrillation or atrial flutter) to a normal heart rhythm by applying high energy shock.
Catheter ablation involves the insertion of a catheter into the heart. A machine delivers energy through the catheter to tiny areas of the heart muscle that cause the abnormal heart rhythm. This energy "disconnects" the pathway of the abnormal rhythm or can disconnect the pathway between the upper and lower chambers of the heart. This procedure is performed by Dr. Kevin Floyd of Heywood Cardiology at UMass Medical Center in Worcester.
Implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD)
An implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) constantly monitors the heart rhythm. When it detects a very fast rhythm, it delivers energy to the heart muscle to cause the heart to beat in a normal rhythm again. Patients who have an ICD or a pacemaker implanted can expect a quick recovery and return to an active lifestyle.
Pacemakers are devices that send small electrical impulses to the heart muscle to maintain a normal heart rate. A pacemaker is an implantable device, (about the size of a silver dollar) that consists of small electrodes and a power source connected to the heart via wires.
Cardiac Resynchronization Therapy (CRT) is an innovative way to help relieve symptoms of heart failure by coordinating the heart's contractions. CRT involves the implantation of a pacemaker that paces both the left and right ventricle of the heart simultaneously.
Patients who benefit from receiving a CRT device include those with:
- Symptomatic heart failure
- A low ejection fraction, which refers to the amount of blood that is pumped out of the heart during each heartbeat
- Evidence of conduction abnormality in the heart rhythm
When CRT is used, the heart's right and left ventricles work together to make pumping more efficient. Most patients have fewer symptoms, greater tolerance for activity and a better quality of life after receiving CRT. Clinical trials show an improvement in functional status, exercise capacity, and quality of life, as well as a reduction in hospitalizations and mortality. CRT is performed at UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester.