Electrophysiology

Electrophysiology is for patients whose heart does not beat as it should because the heart's electrical system is not functioning correctly.  Electrophysiology is a field of cardiac medicine that includes pacemakers, implantable cardioverter defibrillators and biventrical pacemaker implants.

 

Pacemakers

A pacemaker is a small device that is placed in the chest to help control abnormal heart rhythms.  This device uses low-energy electrical pulses to prompt the heart to beat at a normal rate.  Pacemakers monitor the heartbeat and, if it's too slow, will speed up the heart rate by sending electrical signals to the heart.  Pacemakers also have sensors that detect body motion or breathing rate, which signals the pacemaker to increase the heart rate during exercise to meet the body's increased need for blood and oxygen.

Most people needing a pacemaker have a condition called arrhythmias, which is where the heart's rhythm is abnormal.

Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillators

Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillators (ICD) is a battery-powered device placed under the skin that keeps track of the heart rate.  They help patients with ventricular tachycardia (excessively rapid heartbeat), ventricular fibrillation (loss of organized heartbeat) and those whose heart's electrical system is not function correctly. 

The implantable defibrillator is surgically implanted near the heart where it can monitor heart rhythm and send an electrical shock to the heart if a life threatening rhythm is detected.  The device is about the size of a pocket watch and wires run from the pulse generator to positions on the surface of or inside the heart and can be installed through blood vessels, eliminating the need for open-chest surgery. 

The ICD constantly monitors the heart rhythm.  When it detects a very fast, abnormal heart rhythm, it delivers energy to the heart muscle. This causes the heart to beat in a normal rhythm again. 

Prime candidates for an ICD are those who have sustained ventricular tachycardia, survived a cardiac arrest or have fainted from a ventricular arrhythmia.  Patients who also may benefit from an ICD are may have:

  • A history of coronary artery disease and heart attack that has weakened the heart.
  • A heart condition that involves abnormal heart muscle, such as enlarged (dilated cardiomyopathy) or thickened (hypertrophic cardiomyopathy) heart muscle.
  • An inherited heart defect that makes your heart beat abnormally. 

Bi-ventricular Pacemakers

Bi-ventricular pacemakers are a treatment option for people with heart failure whose hearts' electrical systems have been damaged. Unlike a regular pacemaker, a biventricular pacemaker stimulates both of the lower chambers of your heart (the right and left ventricles) to make the heart beat more efficiently. A biventricular pacemaker paces both ventricles so that all or most of the ventricular muscle pumps together. This allows your heart to pump blood more effectively. Because this treatment resets the ventricles' pumping mechanism, it's also referred to as cardiac re-synchronization therapy (CRT).