What is Cardiac Electrophysiology?
Cardiac Electrophysiology is the study, diagnosis and treatment of the heart’s electrical system.
The heart is composed of various chambers and valves, but it also consists of different electrical
pathways whose duty it is to ensure that you have a steady heart rate. It is these electrical
systems that make sure your heart rate goes faster when you exercise or are stressed and slower
when you are resting. When these pathways behave in a certain “normal fashion” we have
normal heart rates and no issues. However, when these electrical systems have any trouble
your heart rate can go very fast or very slow causing a range of symptoms and risks. There are
electrical characteristics and pathways to everyones heart and a Cardiac Electrophysiologist,
also known as an “EP”, is the doctor that specializes in the care of that system.
What is the difference between a Cardiac Electrophysiologist and a Cardiologist?
An Electrophysiologist is a Cardiologist that specializes in the study of the electrical activities
of the heart. They have completed two more years of fellowship beyond a general cardiology
fellowship. Electrophysiologists are specially trained in the diagnosis and treatment of
cardiac arrhythmias (abnormal heart rhythms). They perform procedures such as diagnostic
electrophysiology testing to find and assess arrhythmias, radiofrequency catheter ablation,
and implantation of devices such as pacemakers and defibrillators. If your heart was a house,
a Cardiologist would be in charge of the plumbing and the Electrophysiologist would be in
charge of the wiring and electrical. They both have their specialties and together make the
house inhabitable. So while the Cardiologist deals with the plumbing of the heart by dealing
with blood flow, blockages, chest pain and heart catherizations, an Electrophysiologist deals with
the electrical systems of the heart by dealing with arrhythmias, syncope, cardiac devices, and
ablations. Both doctors work together but focus on different types of heart problems.
Why should I see a Cardiac Electrophysiologist if I already have a Cardiologist?
Electrophysiology is a subspecialty of cardiology so while many Cardiologists can help
you with most tests and symptoms that relate to your heart they are not specialized in the
electrical disorders that can ail any patient. An Electrophysiologist can run specialized tests and
procedures such as an “EP Study” to determine if such an electrical disorder is present. To reduce such risks and improve one’squality of life, an Electrophysiologist helps and compliments a Cardiologist in completing the total heart care of a patient.