Electrophysiology Lab: Cardiac Arrhythmia & Pacemaker Services
Your heart is a pump — and a spark plug. And if the pumping and electrical functions don't work together, then your heart might stop working.
Southcoast Hospitals' Cardiac Electrophysiology (EP) Lab, based at Charlton Memorial Hospital, offers the very latest technology and treatments for heart rhythm problems. To bring you these services, we've partnered with a leader in electrophysiology — Massachusetts General Hospital Heart Center.
Local heart patients have access to open heart surgery, elective angioplasty and now cardiac arrythmia treatment — right here, close to home.
Southcoast's EP Lab
Southcoast's Electrophysiology (EP) Laboratory provides diagnostic and treatment for cardiac arrhythmias.
A highly skilled team of physicians and nurses works with patients to determine the cause of their heart rhythm disturbances. Together, they develop a plan of care to treat the underlying cause of the heart rhythm disturbance and monitor the patient's progress and response to treatment.
Understanding the Heart
The electrical system of the heart creates electrical impulses that help your heart to contract in a steady rhythm and pump blood throughout your body. If your heart's electrical system is not working correctly — a condition known as an irregular heart rhythm or "arrhythmia" — can develop, and serious health problems, even death, can result.
The heart is divided into upper and lower chambers and each send impulses that make the heart contract. Signals start in the upper part of the heart — the atrium, and travel to the lower part of the heart — the ventricles.
Abnormal heart rhythms might occur from:
- Abnormal functioning of cells in the atrium and the ventricles.
- Delays in the conduction of impulses from the atrium to the ventricles. When your heart beats too fast it is called tachycardia, when it beats too slow it is called bradycardia.
Some heart-related problems that can lead to arrhythmias include:
- Damage to the heart from a heart attack or coronary artery disease.
- Heart defects or congenital heart disease.
- Effects from medications.
- Disease affecting the heart valves or the heart muscle (cardiomyopathy).
Other causes might include excess caffeine or alcohol use, smoking or lack of sleep.
Some people may never know they have an arrhythmia. Others may be bothered by symptoms that include:
- Lightheadedness, dizziness or fainting.
- Shortness of breath.
- A feeling that your heart has skipped a beat or is beating too rapidly.
- Chest pain or discomfort.
Diagnosing & Treating Arrhythmia
Arrhythmias are diagnosed by two types of testing: non-invasive testing that records the heart's electrical activity externally and invasive testing that provides a "picture" of the heart's activity through a special catheter that is inserted directly into the heart.
Some types of non-invasive testing include:
- Holter monitoring, which provides a continuous heart reading for 24 hours.
- Event recorder, in which the patient can record the heart rhythm when they experience symptoms.
- Echocardiogram, which uses sound waves to provide a three dimensional picture of the beating heart's chambers.
- Treadmill test, which allows your doctor to record your heart's activity while you exercise.
- Tilt table testing, which monitors heart rate and blood pressure while your body is tilted at an upright angle.
- Implantable loop recorder which provides a long-term recording of heart rhythms when symptoms are expected.
If these non-invasive tests are not able to assist in diagnosing your problem, your doctor may recommend an Electrophysiology Study. Southcoast Hospitals is the only medical center in the region to provide this advanced diagnostic heart care.
An Electrophysiology Study is performed in a specially equipped room. During the study, doctors place special electrode catheters (long, flexible wires) into the veins and guide them into the heart. These catheters measure the electrical activity of the heart and also stimulate various areas of the heart — called pacing — in an attempt to induce an arrhythmia. During certain procedures, doctors can view a three-dimensional picture of the heart on a large computer screen. This technology provides a roadmap for identifying the exact location of the arrhythmia, thus making it easier to treat.
Our team of highly skilled physicians, nurses and technologists will offer comprehensive care for the treatment of heart rhythm disturbances such as:
- Drug therapy to help control and prevent arrhythmias.
- Cardioversion, a procedure used to restore normal heart rhythm.
- Permanent pacemaker implants to relieve symptoms of bradycardia (slow heart beat).
- Catheter ablation, a treatment that destroys the abnormal pathways in your heart that are causing various types of heart arrhythmias.
- Cardiac resynchronization therapy for congestive heart failure with PPM or ICD.
- Implantable cardioverter-defibrillator therapy for the prevention of sudden cardiac death.