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What is an Electrophysiologist?

What is an Electrophysiologist?

An Electrophysiologist can also be known as a Cardiac Electrophysiologist or Cardiac EP. An Electrophysiologist is a type of Cardiologist with advanced training. 

All Electrophysiologist are cardiologists, who focus on testing for and treating problems specifically caused by irregular heart rhythms, also known as arrhythmias. They have advanced levels of skill in reading and interpreting Electrocardiograms (ECGs), use advanced medication strategies in managing heart rhythm conditions, and are able to perform highly technical procedures to influence the heart’s electrical activity. 

Electrophysiologists are specialists of heart rhythm and electrical disorders of the heart. The electrical system is generally responsible for the speed and regularity of the heart rate. Problems that Electrophysiologists treat include those associated with fast, slow or irregular heartbeats 

How are Cardiologists different to Cardiac Surgeons? 

Cardiologists are physicians (medical specialists) who may perform procedures on the heart using minimally invasive catheters that they operate remotely, inserting them near the groin and moving through the main veins up to the heart.  

Cardiac Surgeons are surgery specialists, who perform open-heart surgery – directly on the heart, through opening up the chest.  

There are different sorts of Cardiologists. 

All cardiologists can practice general cardiology. Many cardiologists have also undertaken additional training (often 2-3 years, and commonly in highly regarded international hospitals). There are three main areas of sub-specialty within Cardiology: 

  • Electrophysiologists specialise in the electrical systems of the heart, that are often the cause of heart rhythm disorders. They are expert in reading electrical signals through electrocardiograms and electrograms. They can perform procedures to insert devices like pacemakers and defibrillators, and ablations to stop abnormal electrical rhythms. 
  • Interventional cardiologists specialise problems with the structure and circulation of the heart – blocked arteries that might cause a heart attack, problems with the valves, or ‘holes’ (foramen) between chambers, and closure of the atrial appendage. They insert stents, closure or sealing devices, balloons to open up a stenosed artery. 
  • Imaging cardiologists specialise in the interpretation of cardiac scans, including echocardiography, stress echo, transoesophageal echo, Cardiac CT.  

 

How does an Electrophysiologist help Atrial Fibrillation? 

An Electrophysiologist can be an important part of your ongoing Atrial Fibrillation medical team. 

As the electrical specialists of the heart, EPs are the experts in managing Atrial Fibrillation. An EP views Atrial Fibrillation as a long-term condition, that changes over time – it is a journey to take with a patient, not a one-off episode.  Your EP will be up to date with the constantly advancing treatment recommendations for management of AFib, across stroke prevention, rhythm and rate control, and risk factor management.  

Your EP will have advanced training to perform the procedures that may be recommended as part of your treatment – including ablations.  

Your EP will communicate with your GP and other specialists as part of the team approach.  

electrophysiologist treating atrial fibrillation

How do I choose an Electrophysiologist? 

Here are some suggestions to help you choose an Electrophysiologist to help manage your Atrial Fibrillation.

  • It may depend where you live – Electrophysiologists tend to be located in major cities where there are hospitals with Cardiac Catheter Labs and specialised  Electrophysiology equipment.
  • You can ask for recommendations from your GP or other medical specialists
  • You can ask for recommendations from other patients

 

If you are doing your own research, then look for: 

  • Advanced training in Electrophysiology – usually called a Fellowship in Electrophysiology, completed over 1-3 years.
  • A Fellow or Member of the Heart Rhythm Society. 

  

Ideally, it is best to find an EP that you can build an ongoing professional relationship with: 

  • Someone that listens to your concerns 
  • Someone that helps you understand your options 
  • Someone who you can return to for help at different stages of the condition. 

What is a Fellow of the Heart Rhythm Society (FHRS)? 

Fellowship of the Heart Rhythm Society is awarded to members of HRS who have advanced training, certification and have demonstrated commitment to research and treatment of heart rhythm conditions.  

According to the Heart Rhythm Society, (www.hrsonline.org), Fellows of the HRS have been: 

  • Recognised by their peers for excellence and skill in medical practice, teaching, or research 
  • Committed to improving the care of patients, promoting research and education, striving for the highest ethical and treatment standards and advocating for optimal health care policies.  
heart rhythm society