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 everyone’s 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 sub-specialty 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’s quality of life, an Electrophysiologist helps and compliments a Cardiologist in completing the total heart care of a patient.