Understanding and Treating Abnormal Heart Rhythms
Electrophysiology is a medical specialty that deals with electrical problems in the heart. These electrical problems can lead to abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmias) that may affect quality of life and may even be dangerous in some cases.
MidMichigan Medical Center–Midland has an electrophysiology lab that is specially equipped to enable a type of cardiologist called an electrophysiologist to diagnose and often treat these rhythm problems. Arrhythmias have traditionally been treated with medications or pacemakers. The lab enables many of these conditions to be treated and sometimes even permanently cured through minimally procedures. The lab offers every diagnostic and therapeutic EP procedure.
Three main types of procedures are performed in the EP lab:
Electrophysiology (EP) Studies – This is a diagnostic procedure that produces a complex 3-D mapping of the electrical activity in the heart. This enables the physician to pinpoint the type and the source of the abnormal rhythm.
Implantable Devices – Some arrhythmias may be treated by implanting a device such as a pacemaker (PPM) or cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) that controls the heart’s rhythm.
Cardiac Ablation or Radiofrequency Ablation (RFA) – In other cases, the physician may be able to permanently eliminate the source of electrical disruption. She does this by inserting a catheter into the veins, guiding it to the heart and delivering radiofrequency energy to neutralize the electrical cells that are causing the problem.
One important piece of equipment in MidMichigan’s EP lab is a Velocity® 3-D mapping system from St. Jude Medical, the first of its kind in Michigan. Local community members donated $70,000 toward the equipment’s purchase through the Medical Center’s Love Light Trees program.
Some of the other key equipment includes:
- A pacing device that speeds up or slows down the heartbeat to simulate abnormal rhythms for diagnosis
- Equipment to monitor the patient’s heart rhythm, blood pressure, blood oxygen level and other vital signs
- Specialized catheters and a radiofrequency generator for ablation
- Hands-free defibrillator pads to restore normal heart rate if needed
- Cautery grounding pads to protect patients from electrical shock