| A common term for heart rhythm disturbance is arrhythmia. Arrhythmia is commonly found in two patient populations: young, healthy individuals whose heartbeat suddenly takes off at 200 beats per minute. They feel like they’re going to pass out. Then, suddenly, it stops. This can happen for one of several reasons:
- As electrical activity passes through a relay station – the atrioventricular node – the heartbeat starts in another part of the heart;
- The sinus node – or the heart’s pacemaker – develops an abnormal heart rate;
- A block occurs in the heart’s electrical system.
Normally, electricity flows throughout the heart in a regular fashion. Any problem along the electrical pathway causes an arrhythmia, or heart rhythm disturbance. By diagnosing the precise cause of an arrhythmia, it is possible to select the best treatment. Treatment may include pacemakers, defibrillators, medications or an ablation (elimination of the abnormal tissue)
Studies, procedures, and treatments dealing with this electrical system are performed in the Electrophysiology (EP) lab. McLaren Bay Region has a state-of-the-heart EP lab, performing a variety of services. We offer diagnostic EP studies, a variety of ablations for atrial or ventricular arrhythmias, including atrial flutter and atrial fibrillation, intracardiac ultrasound, advanced 3-D mapping, and insertion of various devices including pacemakers, defibrillators and Bi-ventricular devices for heart failure.
Rehan Mahmud, M.D., is one of McLaren Bay Region's cardiac Electrophysiologists who perform these services. An Electrophysiologist is a doctor with special expertise in the heart's electrical systems.
EP studies most often are recommended for patients with symptoms indicative of heart rhythm disorders or for people who may be at risk for sudden cardiac death. Although some arrhythmias don't cause any symptoms, others are quite distinct, such as the feeling of your heart "racing". Palpitations, skipped heart beats, lightheadedness, dizziness and fatigue could all be indicative of arrhythmias.
During an EP study, the electrophysiolgist will try to "provoke" arrhythmia events and collect data about the flow of electricity. By doing this, the appropriate treatment can then be recommended.
"Often," says Dr. Mahmud, "we can give the patient and family answers immediately after the EP study." If an ablation is needed, McLaren Bay Region has fully trained staff and up-to-date equipment. "Any time we can isolate and ablate an area causing a disruption of the heart's electrical system," explains Dr. Mahmud, "we have the potential to significantly improve that patient's quality of life."
Sometimes, a device is the appropriate treatment. This can be found during an EP study, or it may be recommended based on the patient's history. The decision on what kind of device is best for a particular patient is based on a variety of factors, including the type of arrhythmia and how strong the heart muscle is.
"A pacemaker," states Dr. Mahmud, "will keep the heart from beating too slowly." Whereas, "a defibrillator can also keep the heart from going too slow, but in addition, it is an effective device to stop fast heart rhythms in the heart."
"Heart failure patients have another issue to deal with," explains Dr. Mahmud, "the inability of the heart to adequately squeeze. This is known as a lack of pumping power. With the lack of pumping, blood backs up. Pt's in heart failure are usually tired, short of breath and have difficulty with everyday activities. These patients may be candidates for Bi-Ventricular devices."
Whatever patients need to diagnose and treat their arrhythmias, we at McLaren Bay Region's EP lab strive to improve our patient's quality of life. We are active in research, continually looking for ways to learn and grow in this ever changing field of Electrophysiology.