Electrophysiology and AFib Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Does your heart skip a beat, flutter or otherwise behave irregularly? Electrophysiology may be the answer.
What is Electrophysiology?
The cardiovascular system is made up of the heart and the major veins and arteries that surround it. Electrophysiology is the study of the electrical system of the heart, which ensures that it maintains a healthy and regular rhythm.
Electrophysiologists specialize in diagnosing and treating abnormalities within the electrical system of the heart to help restore its normal rhythm and help patients avoid potentially negative side effects associated with abnormal rhythm.
What is Atrial Fibrillation?
Atrial Fibrillation, or AFib for short, is an electrical heart condition characterized by an irregular heartbeat, which results from the two upper heart chambers not contracting properly. Often patients diagnosed with AFib complain that their heart feels like it skips a beat or flutters.
What are the Symptoms of AFib?
Common and noticeable symptoms of AFib include heart palpitations, fatigue and shortness of breath; however, it is important to note that patients with AFib may not exhibit any symptoms at all. If you have a family history of AFib or begin experiencing any of these symptoms, visit your primary care doctor, who can determine whether further testing is needed at our Heart and Lung Center.
How is AFib Diagnosed?
Patients can be diagnosed with AFib through thorough examination and non-invasive cardiovascular testing. In addition to gathering your family history and performing a physical examination, your cardiologist may recommend the use of a stress test, event or Holter monitoring, or 3D echocardiography.
Learn more about the cardiovascular and pulmonary tests available in our Heart and Lung Center.
Are There any Dangerous Side Effects of AFib?
Often, AFib does not affect an individual’s immediate health; however, if left untreated, it can result in heart attack or stroke due to the fact that blood may pool within the heart, which drastically increases the risk of clotting. In addition, Afib can weaken the heart muscle and lead to congestive heart failure. AFib should always be diagnosed and treated by a board-certified electrophysiologist.
What are Treatment Options for AFib?
One of the most common treatment for AFib is ablation, which is a procedure that allows electrophysiologists to use small catheters to freeze or cauterize the unwanted heart tissue that is disturbing its electrical system. Swedish Covenant Health employs the latest ablation techniques, resulting in an outpatient, minimally invasive and relative low-risk solution to an otherwise potentially life-threatening condition.
Swedish Hospital is the only hospital in Chicago that performs ablations without any x-ray whatsoever. Using electro anatomic mapping technology (3D-EAM), specially trained electrophysiologists navigate small catheters with extreme precision. This form of ablation allows the electrophysiologist to operate on mere millimeters while completely eliminating risks associated with radiation exposure (as the surgery can last up to several hours).
Traditionally, ablation is done through the use of a small pointed catheter that produces intense heat. This method, while effective in many cases, does carry some risks. By using heat, additional tissue damage can occur. In addition, because the surgeon must close the vein by slowly ablating the circumference of the vein point by point (similar to drawing a circle), small leaks can be missed, resulting in the potential for having to repeat the procedure.
At Swedish Hospital, we utilize cryoablation to avoid these risks. Using a different catheter equipped with an inflatable balloon, our electrophysiologists freezes heart tissue in a complete circle, minimizing the potential for small leaks and additional tissue damage during surgery.
Similar to cryoablation, this form of ablation uses high frequency radio waves to remove the heart tissue that is causing complications to restore the heart’s natural rhythm.
Other forms of treatment include:
Cardiac Resynchronization Therapy
Irregular heartbeats can be corrected by implanting a pacemaker that sends electrical signals to the heart chambers in order to restore normal rhythm.
In addition to any of the treatments listed, your cardiologist may prescribe a blood thinning medication to lower the risk of blood clots.
Meet Dr. Hany Demo
Dr. Hany Demo is a board-certified cardiac electrophysiologist with Swedish Medical Group. He is a clinical instructor of Medicine at the University of Illinois in Chicago. He is an author and co-author of numerous scientific publications and book chapters in Cardiac Electrophysiology and Cardiology. His clinical interests include fluoroless blation, radiofrequency ablation (RFA), atrial fibrillation, cryoablation, arrhythmia management, pacemaker and ICD implantation. He has more than 10 years of experience.
To schedule an appointment with a Dr. Demo, call 773-989-3957.