Cardiac Electrophysiology

If you suffer from shortness of breath, discomfort or heart palpitations, you may have an arrhythmia or irregular heartbeat. At Valley Baptist Medical Center - Brownsville, we’ve expanded our cardiac care with the opening of our new Electrophysiology (EP) Lab to provide cardiac electrophysiology services to diagnose and treat abnormal heartbeats. With its advanced technology, the EP Lab allows us to further assess problems in your heart’s electrical activity and treat conditions to restore your heart to its normal rhythm.

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What Does an Electrophysiologist Do?

An electrophysiologist is a doctor specializing in diagnosing unusual heart rhythms and electrical activity. Also referred to as a cardiac electrophysiologist, EP or arrhythmia specialist, an electrophysiologist tests the cardiac electrical activity to diagnose the source of irregular heartbeats and help determine a suitable treatment, whether you need medicine, a minimally invasive procedure, surgery or mere lifestyle changes.

Our cardiac electrophysiologist specializes in:

  • Arrhythmia evaluation and treatment
  • Anti-arrhythmic medication management
  • Electrophysiology studies
  • Catheter ablation
  • Pacemaker and cardioverter defibrillator implantation and management
  • Intracardiac echocardiograms
  • Stereotaxis surgery

Cardiac Electrophysiology Procedures

Here are the procedures we perform in our Valley Baptist Medical Center - Brownsville EP Lab:

Cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT)

CRT is commonly performed in conjunction with defibrillator implantation. Patients with weak heart muscles often have disorganized muscle function, which means the left and right chambers of the heart do not beat in unison. This further impairs the heart’s ability to perform well, resulting in shortness of breath and fatigue. To treat this condition, wires are threaded from a pacemaker to the heart to help it beat in an organized and more efficient way.

Catheter ablation

This procedure treats heart rhythm disturbances and is typically performed in conjunction with an electrophysiology study. The tip of a catheter is heated or cooled next to the area of the heart responsible for the rhythm disturbance, whichs helps restore normal heart rhythm.

Electrophysiology (EP) study

EP study aims to assess the heart’s activity or electrical system to diagnose arrhythmia. It is performed by inserting catheters and wire electrodes through the blood vessels that enter the heart.

Implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) implantation

An ICD is an electronic device that constantly monitors the heart rhythm. It is usually recommended for patients who have had a severe episode of an abnormally fast heart rhythm or are at high risk for having them. A surgeon implants the defibrillator under the skin, usually below the left collarbone. A wire is threaded through a large vein to connect the device to the heart. When ICD detects a very fast, abnormal heart rhythm, it delivers energy to the heart muscle to restore its normal rhythm.

Implantable loop recorder (ILR)

This small monitor is implanted just under the skin on the chest to record the heart’s electrical activity. It is a useful diagnostic tool for patients who experience symptoms such as fainting, rapid heartbeat, lightheadedness or dizziness. It’s typically used when the symptoms are not frequent enough to be captured by a 24-hour or 30-day external monitor. An ILR can be used for two to three years, if necessary.

Pacemaker implantation

A pacemaker is a battery-operated device that can change the rhythm or speed of a beating heart. It is about the size of a 50-cent piece but thicker. A pacemaker treats bradycardia, a condition where the heart beats too slowly. The surgeon implants a pacemaker under the skin, usually below the left collarbone. Wires are threaded through a large vein to connect the device to the heart.

The pacemaker sends electrical pulses to keep the heart beating regularly. Pacemakers work on demand and can be programmed to respond to your body's needs. If a pacemaker senses your heart is missing a beat or beating too slowly, it will send signals to prompt heartbeats. If it senses your heart is beating normally by itself, it does not send out any signals.

Arrhythmia Causes and Risk Factors

Several factors may affect the heart’s rhythm and lead to arrhythmia, such as:

  • Blood imbalances
  • Certain medicines
  • Changes to the heart tissue
  • Issues with the electrical signals in the heart
  • Stress, anxiety, anger or pain

Arrhythmia Symptoms

A person with arrhythmia may not experience any symptoms, especially in the early stages. Patients may sometimes notice signs of abnormal heart rhythm, such as irregular heartbeat and palpitations. These signs may become more frequent as time goes on.

However, if you experience more serious signs and symptoms of arrhythmia, please speak with a doctor immediately. These include:

  • Anxiety
  • Blurry vision
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Chest pain or pressure
  • Dizziness
  • Excessive sweating
  • Fainting
  • Fatigue
  • Foggy brain
  • Weakness and light-headedness

When left untreated, arrhythmia may lead to life-threatening conditions such as heart failure, heart attack and stroke.

Arrhythmia Prevention and Treatment

Not all arrhythmias need treatment. Once your cardiologist has diagnosed you to have an arrhythmia, they will need to determine whether it puts you at risk for more serious health complications in the future. If it is, your doctor will plan a treatment. The goals of arrhythmia treatment include:

  • Preventing blood clot formation reduces the risk of stroke, especially for patients with atrial fibrillation (a type of arrhythmia)
  • Maintaining a normal heart rate range
  • Restoring a normal cardiac rhythm
  • Treating the heart condition that may be causing arrhythmia
  • Reducing other risk factors for stroke and heart disease, such as:
    • High blood pressure
    • High cholesterol levels
    • Excessive weight
    • Smoking

Find a Cardiologist

Adding EP services at Valley Baptist Medical Center — Brownsville complements our top-notch Cardiac Team with access to advanced and up-to-date procedures in cardiac electrophysiology, all close to home. Count on us for all your heart health needs. Fill out a contact form, and we’ll call you to refer you to a doctor.

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