Cardiac Electrophysiology Diagnostic Services at Drexel Cardiology
A heartbeat consists of a complex series of events, set in motion by an electrical signal from within your heart muscle.
Each beat begins with a signal from the sinoatrial (SA) node, commonly referred to as the heart’s natural pacemaker. The SA node normally produces 60-100 electrical signals per minute. With each pulse, signals from the SA node follow a natural electrical pathway through your heart walls. The movement of the electrical signals causes your heart's chambers to contract and relax.
In a healthy heart, the chambers contract and relax in a coordinated way, or in rhythm.
When there is a problem with your heart's electrical system it can cause what is called a heart rhythm disorder, or arrhythmia. Today, arrhythmias are being diagnosed earlier and treated more effectively thanks to technological and medical advances in electrophysiology.
Arrhythmia Symptoms and Diagnosis
The most common type of arrhythmia is atrial fibrillation, which happens when the two upper chambers of the heart (the atria) pulsate weakly and erratically instead of maintaining a normal rhythm.
Symptoms of atrial fibrillation and other arrhythmias may include:
- Palpitations, or the sensation that the heart is pounding too fast or irregularly
- Shortness of breath
- Lightheadedness, dizziness, or fainting
- Chest pain
- An abnormal heart rhythm detected by a doctor
To evaluate atrial fibrillation and other arrhythmias, Drexel Cardiology's electrophysiology team may use any of the following:
- A Holter monitor that the patient wears to record each heartbeat for a day or up to a month
- An implantable monitor
- Basic or complex electrocardiograms, with or without an exercise stress test
- Invasive electrophysiological testing, in which catheters are inserted into the blood vessels and advanced to the heart to record electrical impulses that cause heart rhythm problems from inside the heart
- A tilt table test, during which the patient stands supported for half an hour to evaluate the autonomic nervous system
Electrophysiology Test Preparation
Before your electrophysiology study, please be sure to do the following:
- Consult with your doctor about medications you currently take. You may be advised to discontinue certain medications from one to five days before the procedure. If you have diabetes, ask your doctor how you should adjust your medications.
- Do not eat or drink anything after midnight on the evening before an invasive electrophysiology test. If you need to take regular medical pills on the day of the procedure do so with just enough water to swallow them.
- Bring a list of current medications and doses.
- Arrange for a friend or family member to drive you to and from the hospital.
Arrhythmia Treatment Options
Using the information gathered during the patient's evaluation, Drexel Cardiology's electrophysiology team may recommend one of the following treatment approaches:
- Medication to control heart rhythm
- Catheter ablation in an attempt to completely eliminate the heart rhythm disorder
- Implantation of a pacemaker or a defibrillator
Clinical Research Efforts
Clinical research plays a crucial role in advancing treatments for patients with arrhythmias. Our reputation among federal and private funders has led to our involvement in several prominent trials that test innovative medical therapies and novel devices. Most recently these include the Catheter Ablation versus Antiarrhythmic Drug Therapy for Atrial Fibrillation Trial (CABANA) and the Sorin Group's study of the PARADYM implantable cardioverter-defibrillator system.
At Drexel Cardiology, our electrophysiologists specialize in all aspects of arrhythmia management. Our doctors are experienced in using the latest treatment tools and techniques to provide patients with good outcomes.
John M. Fontaine, M.D.
Specialty: Cardiology, Electrophysiology, Ablation, Implantable Cardioverter-Defibrillator
S. Luke Kusmirek, M.D.
Specialties: Cardiology, Electrophysiology
Special expertise in complex ablation procedures including atrial fibrillation and ventricular tachycardia ablation
Steven P. Kutalek, M.D.
Specialty: Cardiology, Lead Extraction, Pacemakers, Defibrillators, Medication Management
Heath Saltzman, M.D.
Specialty: Cardiology, Electrophysiology, Nuclear Cardiology Imaging
The information on these pages is provided for general information only and should not be used for diagnosis or treatment, or as a substitute for consultation with a physician or health care professional. If you have specific questions or concerns about your health, you should consult your health care professional.