If you have an irregular heartbeat—a cardiac arrhythmia—you may need to see an electrophysiologist. An electrophysiologist is a medical doctor with advanced training who specializes in diagnosing and treating disorders that affect your heart’s electrical system, which regulates your heartbeat.
Here at Emerson Hospital, we have highly qualified electrophysiologists with the expertise to conduct special diagnostic tests, called electrophysiology (EP) studies, as well as perform highly specialized procedures to help restore your heart’s normal rhythm.
EP studies test your heart’s electrical activity to identify precisely where an arrhythmia is coming from. These results help your doctor determine:
- How well medications are working to control your arrhythmia
- If you require implantation of a device to regulate your heart’s rhythm and prevent the risk of fainting or cardiac arrest
- If they should treat your arrhythmia by destroying the specific part of your heart’s tissue that is causing the abnormal electrical signals
These studies take place in an EP lab or catheterization (cath) lab while you are mildly sedated. During the study, the electrophysiologist inserts a catheter (thin tube) into a blood vessel that leads to your heart. The catheter enables your doctor to send electrical signals to your heart, record its electrical activity, and pinpoint where in your heart an arrhythmia originates.
How electrophysiologists treat heart rhythm disorders
The treatments available for heart rhythm disorders include:
- Anti-arrhythmic medications to help control irregular heart rhythms
- Insertion of an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) to shock your heart back into rhythm, if needed
- Implantation of a pacemaker to regulate your heart’s rhythm
- Cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT), also called biventricular pacing, which uses a special kind of pacemaker to help the heart’s ventricles contract more normally
- Catheter ablation, a procedure used to selectively destroy areas of heart tissue that are causing a heart rhythm problem
- Cardioversion, a medical procedure that restores a normal heart rhythm by sending electric shocks to your heart through electrodes placed on your chest
- Complex surgical ablation procedures and pulmonary vein isolations (a treatment for atrial fibrillation)
Through Emerson’s affiliations with leading tertiary hospitals in the Boston area, our electrophysiologists are able to perform these diagnostic and treatment procedures at the most advanced facilities in the region.