Electrophysiology

At Saint Joseph's Heart and Vascular Institute, we have a long history of leadership in cardiovascular care and our Department of Electrophysiology is no exception. Our clinical expertise and access to modern technology is enhanced by our commitment to your emotional and spiritual well-being. Our electrophysiology physician and medical team are experts in the treatment of arrhythmia, or abnormal heart rhythm issues, including atrial fibrillation, atrial flutter, Wolff-Parksinson-White syndrome, and more.

For more information, or to make an appointment, call: (678) 843-7807

What Is Electrophysiology?

Electrophysiology and the physicians who practice it, called electrophysiologists, focus on the diagnosis and treatment of heart rate and rhythm disturbances called arrhythmias. Your heart has a complex electrical system that keeps it beating at the right speed and in an orderly rhythm. An arrhythmia is an interruption in this rate (the number of times in which the heart beats per minute) or rhythm (if the heartbeat is orderly or disorderly). Arrhythmias are often mild and even produce no symptoms. But in some cases they can lead to symptoms such as fluttering sensations (palpitations), shortness of breath, chest discomfort, fainting, or even sudden cardiac arrest, where the heart's erratic beating causes it to stop pumping.

Services

Our highly skilled physicians will work with you and your primary care physician to accurately diagnose your condition and determine the best course of treatment for your unique situation. Our services include:

Arrhythmia consultation
Our arrhythmia consultation typically includes diagnostic procedures as well as a detailed discussion about your history, symptoms, and medications.

Electrophysiology study
Your doctor will use catheters and electrodes (small electrical conductors) to record the electrical activity in your heart.

Catheter ablation
We are the only institution in Atlanta to also offer a combined ablation and surgical approach. First, catheters, most frequently with electrodes at their tips, are heated with radiofrequency energy to destroy (ablate) a tiny spot of heart tissue and create an electrical block along the pathway that is causing the arrhythmia. We can use other forms of energy as well, including laser energy, cold energy (called cryoablation), and ultrasound. Our electrophysiologists use four 3D mapping systems to precisely locate the heart tissue that is causing the arrhythmia and limit radiation exposure.

Device implantation

  • Implantable cardioverter defibrillator. An implantable cardioverter defibrillator, or ICD, is a small device that is implanted under the skin in the upper chest and connected to the heart with wires called leads. When the device senses an arrhythmia, it delivers a shock to restore the heart's proper rhythm. At St Joseph's hospital, patient satisfaction and comfort are a priority. That is why we are the only major hospital that routinely uses our expert board-certified anesthesiologists for the administration of sedation during this and other procedures.
  • Pacemaker. Pacemakers are electronic devices that correct or prevent an abnormally slow heartbeat, turning on when the heartbeat is too slow (bradycardia) and turning off once the heartbeat returns to normal.
  • Biventricular pacemaker or defibrillator (cardiac resynchronization therapy or CRT). In some people with heart failure, the electrical impulses that travel through the heart are delayed, which can make heart contraction uncoordinated and symptoms worse. Physicians can restore the synchronization through placement of a biventricular pacemaker or ICD. A biventricular device differs from a standard device in that it has the ability to pace both the left and the right ventricles.

Long-term device monitoring
Remote monitoring enables you to have your ICD checked from home rather than having to travel to Saint Joseph's for an appointment. The remote monitor is a small battery-powered device. Once you connect the monitor to your home telephone line, the monitor establishes a wireless link to your ICD, reads the stored information, and transmits the information securely to our offices for our electrophysiologists to review.

Device lead extraction
In this procedure, we remove nonfunctioning ICD and pacemaker leads, frequently assisted by laser technology to make the procedure faster, safer, and more effective.

Maze surgery
In Maze surgery, a cardiac surgeon makes multiple electrically insulating lines of scar tissue through the atrium of the heart. The scar tissue forces electrical impulses to follow a route through the heart's electrical system in a way that allows normal conduction but prevents A-fib. Maze surgery is appropriate in patients whose atrial fibrillation is more advanced. We offer robotic Maze surgery, which is less invasive than older techniques, as it only requires 2 to 3 tiny incisions. The surgeon performs it while sitting at a computer console and guiding a highly precise robotic arm. The scars are created with a technique known as cryoablation, where a thin probe literally freezes a small amount of heart tissue. Click here to learn more about our minimally invasive, robotic cardiac surgical services. A decision to use this therapy is typically made after consultation between the electrophysiologist, the surgeon, and of course the patient.

Saint Joseph's Heart and Vascular Institute Is Here For You

The electrophysiologists at Saint Joseph's treat all types of complex rhythm problems. Our board-certified electrophysiologists are highly skilled in electrophysiologic testing and ablation, minimally invasive techniques to diagnose and treat heart rhythm problems. These interventions use catheters (thin, flexible tubes) with electrode tips that are inserted through a small incision in your groin area and guided to the place in your heart where the arrhythmia originates. These catheters can be used to both diagnose the cause of rhythm problems and fix them. Our electrophysiologists also perform a large number of defibrillator and pacemaker implantations. We recommend implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs) frequently to prevent sudden cardiac arrest and pacemaker implantation for treatment of slow heartbeats. We also collaborate with the cardiothoracic surgeons, particularly in complex cases of atrial fibrillation. All treatment decisions are made in partnership with you and your family.

One of our specialties is atrial fibrillation, or A-fib, the most common arrhythmia. This disturbance occurs when the electrical signal that normally causes the atria to contract in an organized fashion, circulates in an uncoordinated manner. Untreated, A-fib can result in cardiomyopathy (an enlarged heart), heart failure, or stroke. Arrhythmias can also occur in the ventricles (the heart's lower chambers), which may be more serious because the ventricles are responsible for moving blood through the body. Some of the common ventricular conditions we treat are ventricular fibrillation, ventricular tachycardia (or VT; when the ventricles beat abnormally fast, between 100 and 250 beats per minute). Supraventricular tachycardia (or SVT) is another common cause of a rapid heartbeat that can affect people of all ages. It usually originates from the junction between the atria and the ventricles. While usually not as dangerous as atrial fibrillation or ventricular tachycardia, it can be quite disabling in some cases. SVT is fortunately quite treatable by ablation.

Striving for Innovation

At Saint Joseph's Heart and Vascular Institute, we are passionate not only about your care, but about advancing the field of electrophysiology. Our physicians are actively involved in a variety of research projects, including national clinical trials and internal studies. We believe that excellence requires a component of self-assessment and study so that we can monitor how we are doing and constantly optimize treatment. We take great pride in our collaborative efforts.

If you have further questions or would like to schedule an appointment, please contact us at (877) 250-STJO (7856).

Contact Us

Electrophysiology (EP) Lab
5665 Peachtree Dunwoody Road, NE
Atlanta, GA 30342
(678) 843-7807