The Arrhythmia Center
What is an arrhythmia? How does electricity work in the heart?
The body naturally produces electricity that travels over the heart muscle and stimulates the heart to contract or beat. The electrical signal that tells the heart to beat comes from a small area of the right atrium of the heart. This area is located in the upper right chamber of the heart and is called the sinoatrial node, or SA node. When a signal is given by the SA node, a small electrical impulse runs through the heart and stimulates the heart muscle to contract. The contraction of the heart muscle produces a heartbeat and forces blood out of the heart to the rest of your body. Certain conditions can cause the electrical system to make the heart beat too slowly, too fast, or in an uncoordinated manner. These irregular patterns are called arrhythmias and they can occur in any of the four chambers of the heart.
- Heartbeats that are too slow (bradycardia)
- Heartbeats that are too fast (tachycardia)
- Extra beats
- Skipped beats
- Beats coming from abnormal areas of the heart
An electrophysiology study will help the physician determine the best treatment for you by showing where the arrhythmias are occurring.
What are the Symptoms?
Some arrhythmias may occur without any symptoms. Others may cause noticeable symptoms, such as:
- Dizziness, sensation of light-headedness
- Sensation of your heart fluttering (palpitations)
- Sensation of a missed or extra heart beat
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
What is electrophysiology?
An electrophysiology study or EPS is a diagnostic procedure to look more closely at the electrical function of the heart. It is the most accurate and reliable method of evaluating heart rhythms and helps physicians determine the treatment option that is most appropriate.
Northside Hospital offers its patients a state-of-the-art electrophysiology lab. Featuring the latest technologically advanced equipment, including a 56” video monitoring system and 4 private recovery rooms, Northside Hospital’s EP lab provides the latest diagnostic technology and advanced treatment options for heart arrhythmias (irregular heartbeats).
Procedures routinely performed in an EP lab include those that deal directly with the electrical system of the heart, such as
- Pacemaker and defibrillator implantation and repair
- EP studies for the detection of arrhythmias
- Cardiac ablation therapy
With a dedicated staff of specialty trained medical professionals and electrophysiologists, the EP lab at Northside Hospital allows patients to receive state-of-the-art care in an inpatient or outpatient setting, reducing the effects of various heart rhythm disorders with procedures not routinely available at other facilities.
Ablation therapy is a technique designed to treat irregular patterns (arrhythmias) and possibly eliminate the need for medications. After the area of the heart causing the arrhythmia is pinpointed, a physician treats the problem by applying either radio frequency energy or cold therapy through the catheter which destroys (ablates) the arrhythmic tissue. This treatment can also be used to treat atrial fibrillation in certain patients.
For those patients with Paroxysmal Atrial Fibrillation for whom drug-therapy or device implantation has not been successful, there is a new treatment option called the Arctic Front® Cardiac CryoAblation Catheter System. Northside Hospital is the only medical facility in Pinellas, Pasco, and Manatee counties to offer this procedure.
- Safe and effective because it has a low risk for complications.
- Has been used to treat over 20,000 patients in more than 200 centers worldwide.
What is Paroxysmal Atrial Fibrillation (PAF)?
Paroxysmal AF refers to AF that occurs sometimes and then stops. The AF stops by itself and the heart returns to its normal rhythm. The AF may last for seconds, minutes, hours, or up to seven days before the heart returns to its normal rhythm. People with this type of AF usually have more symptoms than others. As the heart goes in and out of AF, the pulse rate may change from slow to fast and back again in short periods of time.
Seventy percent of patients treated with cryoablation were free from symptomatic A-Fib at one year, compared with just over seven percent of patients who were treated with drug therapy only. Arctic Front is considered a safe and effective medical device for treating PAF because it has a low risk of complications. Due to its balloon shape, an advantage of cryoablation is the ability of the physician to create a continuous line of scar tissue all the way around the pulmonary vein with just a few applications. With other “point-to-point” catheter systems, repeated applications are made to create many small lesions in an attempt to form a continuous line of scar tissue.