What is an Electrophysiologist or EP?
There can be a great deal of confusion surrounding what exactly an Electrophysiologist or EP is. First, it’s not the easiest word to pronounce or spell, but second it almost sounds like something out of a sci-fi film. To be perfectly frank, it is not far off. Electrophysiology represents one of the newest and most exciting subspecialties of cardiology, which uses a degree of technology that is virtually unparalleled in medicine.
The field of electrophysiology focuses on heart rhythm in particular. These can be fast heart rhythms known as tachycardia or slow heart rhythms known as bradycardia. As a result, a typical electrophysiologist will spend about half of their time working on pacing the heart with the use of pacemakers and implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICD) and half of their time correcting cardiac arrhythmias using medication or curative procedures such as a cardiac catheter ablation or balloon cryoablation. You can equate an electrophysiologist to an electrician of the heart. In fact, electrophysiologists have to spend an extra two years of fellowship solely studying the patterns, functions and dysfunctions of the electrical systems of the heart. While our role is specialized, we work with primary care physicians and general cardiologists closely to ensure holistic treatment of our patients’ cardiovascular problems.
Below, is an illustration of just one example of the amazing technology we use. Using a specially tipped catheter system, we can visualize the structures and electrical signals of the heart in real time to allow for a better diagnosis and even treatment on the spot.
The common thread in everything that we do as electrophysiologists is that we combine traditional therapies and new technology to allow for less invasive and more effective procedures than ever before. Today, we can perform many complex heart procedures using advanced catheter technology where even a decade or two ago, we would have required open heart surgery.