Electrophysiology (EP)

Helping Your Heart Get Into the Right Rhythm

Have you ever felt like your heart’s rhythm is unusual, like it’s beating either too fast or too slow? If so, your heart’s electrical system may be experiencing a problem called arrhythmia, or also known as irregular heartbeat. This heart issue may take a toll on your health and your day-to-day activities, from simply making you feel weak to causing a total heart failure.

The good news is, Abrazo Health has an experienced team who specializes in electrophysiology, a kind of test that doctors perform to help diagnose and treat different types of arrhythmia. Combining expertise and advanced technology, our cardiac electrophysiologists’ goal is to help your heart and life get back to the right rhythm as early as possible. At Abrazo Health, your heart is in the right place.

How Serious Is Heart Arrhythmia?

Arrhythmia may be caused by changes in the electrical signals that affect your heartbeat or some changes in your heart tissue and activity. It may also happen because of stress, blood imbalances, medicines or the cause may be unknown. If you’re living with arrhythmia, please work closely with your doctor for a treatment plan. This may help keep you from experiencing irregular heartbeat again or prevent it from getting worse.

Some of the most common heart arrhythmia symptoms include but are not limited to:

  • Palpitations, rapid heartbeat or pounding in the chest
  • Weakness or fatigue
  • Low blood pressure
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Fainting or near-fainting experiences
  • Shortness of breath
  • Anxiety
  • Chest pain or pressure

At its worst, heart arrhythmia may lead to collapsing or a sudden cardiac arrest.

What Happens When Arrhythmia Is Left Untreated?

When left untreated, arrhythmia may keep the heart from pumping enough blood to the body which may eventually damage the brain, the heart and other organs to the point of becoming life-threatening. Arrhythmia may also increase your risk for stroke and heart failure.

What Does a Cardiac Electrophysiologist Do?

A cardiac electrophysiologist, also known as a cardiac EP, is a doctor who specializes in treating heart rhythm issues. They perform tests to determine the electrical activity of a patient’s heart to diagnose arrhythmia, determine its cause and provide suitable treatment options.

At Abrazo Health, our electrophysiologists perform the following:

  • Evaluation and treatment of atrial fibrillation and other types of arrhythmia
  • Management of antiarrhythmic medications
  • Electrophysiology studies
  • Catheter ablation
  • Implantation and management of pacemakers and implantable cardioverter-defibrillators (ICD)
  • Intracardiac echocardiograms

What Is an Electrophysiology Procedure?

An electrophysiology procedure is a kind of test or study that observes the electrical activity of the heart. This procedure can help cardiac electrophysiologists understand the cause of a patient’s irregular heartbeat, as well as determine the best treatment options for the patient, whether it’s medicine, a cardiac catheter ablation, surgery, a pacemaker or an ICD.

How Does an Electrophysiology Study Work?

Here are the things you can expect if you’re advised by your doctor to undergo an electrophysiology study:

  • At the start of the study, you’ll lie down on a bed and a nurse will begin an intravenous (IV) line into your arm or hand. This allows the nurse to administer drugs and fluids during the procedure. You’ll be given a sedative to help you relax and be connected to several monitors.
  • Your groin will be shaved and cleansed with an antiseptic solution, and sterile drapes will cover you from your neck to your feet. A soft strap will be placed across your waist and arms to keep your hands from touching the sterile area.
  • The electrophysiologist will numb the skin in your groin and insert several catheters into the vein beneath the skin. Those will sense the electrical activity in your heart and help the electrophysiologist evaluate your heart’s conduction.
  • The electrophysiologist will use a pacemaker to deliver electrical impulses through one catheter to increase your heart rate. This means you’ll feel your heart beating either faster or stronger. The doctor and nurses may speak with you to ask about how you are feeling. If your arrhythmia gets triggered, you may be given medications. This way, the treatment team can determine whether the medicines would be effective and may be enough to control your irregular heartbeat. If necessary, a small amount of energy will be delivered by patches in your chest to bring back your normal heart rhythm.
  • Based on the information collected, the doctor may perform an ablation or implant a pacemaker or ICD.

The entire procedure takes between two and four hours, or longer if additional treatments will be performed at the same time. After the procedure, you may be asked to rest for one to two hours. Then, follow-up appointments may be scheduled, discharge planners may come to you to explain the entire procedure and your doctor may also prescribe you with medications before going home.

Expert Heart Care With a Personal Touch

At Abrazo Arizona Heart Hospital, we take a patient-centered, collaborative approach to provide the best patient outcomes. Our advanced, compassionate care includes assigning each patient a dedicated nurse navigator who is an acute care nurse practitioner. You can expect that

  • Your nurse navigator will guide you through the entire care process, from scheduling an appointment to educating your family or loved ones about your condition
  • You will always see a familiar face, and you can reach out to your nurse navigator anytime
  • Your nurse navigator will provide continuity of care after your procedure, with follow ups on your 30th day of care and your first year

Jeff's Electrophysiology Story

Jeff is now back in the air doing what he loves to do after electrophysiologists at Abrazo Arizona Heart Hospital performed an ablation on his heart correcting his rhythm issues.

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