Electrophysiology

Electrophysiology is the study of the heart’s electrical activity. A normally functioning heart receives electrical signals that cause it to contract, pumping blood, and send the blood throughout the body. Disruption to the electrical activity of the heart results in significant health issues. At the WMHS Heart Institute, our physicians on the electrophysiology team work with you if you have experienced several different heart conditions.

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Heart Conditions Electrophysiology Detects

Arrhythmias

Arrhythmia is a problem with the rate or rhythm of the heartbeat. It could beat too fast, too slow, or out of rhythm. Tachycardia is an unusually fast heartbeat, while bradycardia describes a heart that beats too slowly. Arrhythmias are harmless in many cases, but they can become life-threatening in others. If the heart can’t pump enough blood and deliver it to the body, it could result in damage to your brain, heart, or other internal organs.

Atrial Fibrillation

AFib, short for atrial fibrillation, means that a heart beats in an irregular or quivering manner. Some individuals with AFib feel a fluttering in their chest. Untreated AFib can lead to heart failure, blood clots, stroke, and other significant and potentially life-threatening complications. Nausea, weakness, and feeling lightheaded are additional symptoms of AFib. It’s important to receive regular heart check-ups as since the condition sometimes produces no noticeable symptoms at all.

Congestive Heart Failure

Sometimes individuals misinterpret congestive heart failure to mean the heart has stopped working. The term actually refers to the fact that the heart has lost pumping power due to disease. Blood moves through the body and heart at a slower rate, which increases pressure on the heart. Because of this, the heart can’t pump enough nutrients and oxygen to supply the body with what it needs.

Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy

This condition occurs when cells of the heart muscles enlarge and cause a thickening of the heart’s ventricles. It’s a common condition that can affect all ages equally. The size of the heart’s ventricle often remains the same, but the thickening prevents the flow of blood out of its ventricles. When that occurs, doctors refer to it as obstructive hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. Symptoms of this condition typically include shortness of breath, chest pain, dizziness, and fainting.

Heart Block

Heart block is a specific type of arrhythmia that slows or disrupts electrical signaling as it travels through the heart. This could be a congenital heart block, which means an individual is born with it, or an acquired heart block, which means it developed it at some point. An acquired block is more common, and the typical causes include medication use, surgery, or disease. WMHS cardiology clinic doctors rate heart block from first-degree to third-degree, with third-degree requiring the most aggressive interventions.

Procedures to Treat Electrical Heart Problems

Below are some of the most common procedures used at the WMHS Heart Institute:

Alcohol-Induced Septal Ablation

This minimally-invasive procedure treats hypertrophic obstructive cardiomyopathy. The surgeon starts the process by localizing the septal arteries with balloons and wires. This helps to locate the diseased heart muscle. Next, the surgeon injects a small amount of absolute alcohol into your artery. An alcohol ablation takes just 30 minutes to complete and you remain in the hospital at WMHS for at least a few days for observation. This procedure is emerging as an alternative to open heart surgery.

Cardiac Ablation

During this procedure, the surgeon creates small scars in your heart to correct problems with its rhythm. The purpose of a cardiac ablation is to prevent abnormal signaling from traveling through the heart. The surgeon places small electrodes inside of your heart to determine its current electrical activity. After determining the problem source, the surgeon destroys the heart tissue to prevent any further abnormal signaling from traveling through the heart.

Cardioversion

Cardioversion is the process of delivering an electric shock to the heart to correct an irregular rhythm or heartbeat. It’s a common treatment for atrial fibrillation. You may receive medicine before the procedure so you don’t feel the electric shock. Other uses for cardioversion include treatment for life-threatening arrhythmias, atrial tachycardia, ventricular tachycardia, and atrial flutter.

Device Implants

The physician may implant a pacemaker, implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD), a biventricular pacemaker, or another device to treat your specific heart symptoms. A pacemaker is a device that regulates the heart’s contractions by stimulating its muscles. An ICD is appropriate for life-threatening situations since it can perform defibrillation, cardioversion, and pacing of the heart. Our WMHS surgeons implant a biventricular pacemaker as part of cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT). It helps both ventricles contract in a more normal way.