“An electrophysiologist is a cardiologist who has subspecialized so that he or she deals with the management, treatment and diagnosis of patients who have arrhythmias, which is a cardiac problem with the rhythm of the heart,” explains Tom Deering, M.D., a cardiac electrophysiologist at Piedmont Heart Institute.
The most common rhythm disturbances electrophysiologists treat include bradycardia, which occurs when the heart beats too slowly, and atrial fibrillation, which occurs when the heart beats irregularly and too quickly.
“Most of these rhythm disturbances are not life-threatening, although a small amount are,” says Dr. Deering. Treatment often includes medication and in some cases, ablation.
“The third area electrophysiology focuses upon is the treatment of patients who have a weakened heart muscle and, as a result, are at risk for serious, life-threatening rhythms on the bottom of the heart, which is what we call ventricular fibrillation,” he says. “In those cases, we utilize a combination of medical management, ablation to try to burn away some of those short circuits and reduce the frequency of those particular spells, and defibrillators, which will make the patient’s heart stronger in many cases and will protect them against a life-threatening rhythm becoming fatal.”
Piedmont’s electrophysiology program is one of the oldest in the Southeast, says Dr. Deering.
“It’s also one of the largest, in terms of the volume of patients we see and treat, as well as the list of procedures that we do,” he says.
“We have nine electrophysiologists on our team and within our team, we have a particular clinical skill set to focus on,” Dr. Deering explains. “For example, we are an FDA training site for a number of new ablative techniques that two of my colleagues are effectively advancing and developing. In addition, we are advancing the technology for the treatment of heart failure with newer types of defibrillators.
“We have a full spectrum of opportunities for patients, from the simple to the most complex, cutting edge technology. The patient can see the right individual within our subspecialty who can best give them the care they need.”
For more information about Piedmont’s electrophysiology program, visit Piedmont Heart Institute.