Cardiac electrophysiology experts at Gagnon Cardiovascular Institute's Cardiac Rhythm Management Program at Morristown Medical Center evaluate the pace, rate and pattern of the heart's electrical system. Our physicians' participation in clinical trials, including studies sponsored by the National Institutes of Health, has helped expand treatment options for patients with heart rhythm disturbances.
Cardiac electrophysiologists at Gagnon Cardiovascular Institute treat a broad range of heart rhythm irregularities:
- Syncope – a sudden loss of consciousness or fainting spell. The most common type of syncope (vasovagal or neurally mediated syncope) is caused by an abnormal interaction involving the brain, heart and blood vessels.
- Light-headedness – a state of altered consciousness, may be associated with a slow or rapid heart rate or low blood pressure
- Dizziness – may refer to light-headedness or vertigo; a spinning sensation
- Palpitations – extra or rapid heartbeats
- Asymptomatic ventricular premature beats – extra heartbeats originating in the heart's lower chambers. These heartbeats may carry significance if associated with a weakened heart muscle.
- Non-sustained ventricular tachycardia – when several premature heartbeats occur continuously for a short time, and may feel like very rapid heartbeats. Some patients may experience weakness, shortness of breath or fainting episodes. If premature beats are severe and continuous, the condition is referred to as sustained ventricular tachycardia.
- Supraventricular tachycardia – rapid, irregular heartbeat, may cause breathlessness, dizziness, weakness and anxiety. This condition may lead to syncope or in extreme cases, cardiac arrest.
- Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome – a condition in which an extra pathway connects the ventricles (lower chambers of the heart) to the atria (upper chambers of the heart). Signals from the extra pathway make the heart beat faster.
- Family history of sudden cardiac death or syncope – can indicate a genetic cause of heart rhythm problems. Patients frequently seek testing from the program after someone in the family has had a sudden cardiac episode.
- Long QT Syndrome – a disorder that involves the “recharging” of the heart's electrical system after each heartbeat. When this process takes too long, patients are vulnerable to a very fast, abnormal heart rhythm.
- Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) – a complex and often familial cardiac disorder. The disease thickens the heart walls, primarily on the left side of the heart. In some cases, serious rhythm problems may result.
- Atrial fibrillation – results when the atria (upper chambers of the heart) develop extra electric signals, making the chambers beat very quickly and unevenly. The atria may beat so fast and unevenly that they begin to quiver. Symptoms may arise from irregular heartbeat rhythm if the lower chambers in turn beat too slowly or too rapidly, and from the lack of atrial contraction. This condition is a serious risk factor for stroke, and to reduce this risk, many patients are placed on medications to prevent clotting (anticoagulants).
- Atrial flutter – when the atria beat rapidly, though in a more regular fashion than that which occurs with atrial fibrillation.
- Bradycardia – term to describe when the heart beats slowly. This is not always a problem. However, if the heart beats too slowly, then not enough blood is pumped to the body's vital organs. The lack of oxygen and nutrients may cause symptoms such as dizziness, extreme fatigue, shortness of breath or fainting.
Among the technologies we use to treat heart rhythm irregularities are:
- Pacemakers – small electronic devices containing electrodes that are implanted in the chest to stimulate heartbeat in patients whose hearts beats too slowly
- Implantable cardiac defibrillators (ICDs) – small devices that detect life-threatening rapid and irregular heartbeats and send rapid pacing impulses or shocks to the heart to restore normal heart rhythm. Most ICSs contain a one or two chamber pacemaker. Biventricular ICDs, often referred to as cardiac resynchronization systems, treat both lower chambers and may improve cardiac function in patients with weakened heart muscle function and congestive heart failure. ICDs are routinely evaluated to ensure that they remain effective.
- Electrode catheter ablation therapy – application of radiofrequency, heat or cryo- (freezing) energy to small regions of the heart via electrode cables inserted through veins or arteries in the groin to cure supraventricular tachycardia, atrial flutter, atrial fibrillation, ventricular premature beats and ventricular tachycardia.