If an irregular heart rhythm has been detected, you likely expect a referral to a cardiologist. And, while this is true, there is a specific type of cardiologist that you will need to see. Cardiac electrophysiologists, often referred to as EPs, are cardiologists who have additional medical training in the diagnosis and treatment of heart rhythm disorders. When your heart skips a beat, and not in a good way, these are the doctors who will determine why and how to fix it.
Electrophysiologist vs. Cardiologist
The heart has two primary functions: to pump blood throughout the body and to do so effectively and rhythmically. The actual pumping of blood is quite mechanical, and the problems that arise in this realm are either circulatory or structural in nature. Cardiologists are the medical experts in addressing and correcting these problems which can include coronary artery disease, congestive heart failure, cardiac arrest, or peripheral artery disease.
Heart rhythm disorders, on the other hand, arise from problems within the heart’s electrical system where heartbeat is regulated. When there is a problem here, known as arrhythmia, the heart may beat too fast, too slow, or with an unsteady irregularity. Due to its electrical nature, the treatment of arrhythmia requires additional, specialized training on the part of the physician, who must complete an extra one to two years of training beyond the standard cardiology fellowship.
Treatments that Electrophysiologists Offer
There are many forms of arrhythmia such as ventricular tachycardia, atrial flutter, and atrial fibrillation. The severity of these disorders can vary widely with some posing no serious health threat and others being very dangerous and even life-threatening. Determining how to approach each of these based on the diagnosis and the patient is the vital work of an EP.
In some cases, heart rhythm disorders may merely require lifestyle changes. In others, on-going medication may be required, and in the most severe cases, medical intervention may be necessary. These interventions can include the following:
- Cardiac Ablation – A procedure which uses a catheter to deliver heat or extreme cold to the specific heart tissue that is responsible for arrhythmia.
- Implantable Devices – In the most severe cases of arrhythmia, an implantable cardiac device can help control heart rhythm and lower the risk of death. This includes pacemakers and various forms of defibrillators. These devices either control abnormal heart rhythms or detect dangerous rhythms and deliver shocks as necessary.
Throughout south Louisiana, Cardiovascular Institute of the South is home to leading cardiac electrophysiologists. In Zachary, in conjunction with Lane Regional Medical Center, these doctors do the critical, life-saving work of diagnosing and treating heart rhythm disorders. If your physician has detected an abnormal heart rhythm, time is of the utmost importance. Click below to learn more about cardiovascular care at Lane.