Q&A: Helping your heart find the right rhythm
If your heart skipped a beat or fluttered in your chest when you were young, you might have called it love. Later in life, you might call it trouble.
Irregular heartbeats can be a sign that your heart’s electrical system is not working the way it should. Cardiologist Marino Leonardi, MD, explains how Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital’s new electrophysiology (EP) lab can help treat offbeat rhythms.
Q: What is an arrhythmia?
Answer: It is a disturbance of the heart’s rhythm that causes an abnormal beat. Some arrhythmias may cause palpitations or a fast heartbeat, others may cause fainting spells.
Electrophysiologists are the experts in managing arrhythmias. And the team at Mercy Fitzgerald’s EP lab specializes in treating the abnormal function of the cardiac electrical system.
Q: What’s an EP study?
Answer: It’s one of the best ways to look at how the cardiac electrical system functions. Catheters are put into a blood vessel and then moved to the heart. From there, we can determine if there is a slow, rapid or irregular heartbeat and pinpoint the problem.
Q: How does it help?
Answer: In people who have fainting spells, for example, EP may help us determine if these are due to an electrical problem in the heart. And for some rapid heartbeats, we may use radiofrequency ablation to destroy small areas of tissue inside the heart where the problem starts, which alleviates symptoms. Often, a normal heartbeat is restored and medication is no longer needed.
If you experience palpitations, fainting or shortness of breath, check in with your doctor. And be sure to mention any family history of heart problems.