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Arrhythmia Treatment at Mary Washington & Stafford Hospitals

Electrophysiology is the study of the electrical activity and pathways of the heart. You can think of electrophysiologists as the electricians of the heart. Their patients are suspected of having or have been diagnosed with an abnormal heart rhythm (arrhythmia). Treatment plans for arrhythmias are very patient specific. Learn more about our treatments below.

Catheter Ablation

Catheter ablation uses radio waves or freezing to silence an abnormal area in the heart’s electrical system, which is usually found during an electrophysiology study. Ablation is one option for treating abnormal heart rhythms.

Three types of ablation:

  • Electrical or radiofrequency catheter ablation
  • AV node ablation
  • Cryoablation

Defibrillator Implant

An implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) is a small device that’s placed in your chest or abdomen. This device uses electrical pulses or shocks to help control life-threatening, irregular heartbeats, especially those that could lead the heart to suddenly stop beating. If the heart stops beating, blood stops flowing to the brain and other vital organs. This usually causes death if it’s not treated in minutes.

Placing an ICD requires minor surgery. You will be given medicine right before the surgery that will help you relax and may make you fall asleep. Your doctor will give you a local anesthetic so you won’t feel anything in the area where the doctor puts the ICD.

Once you have an ICD, you have to avoid close or prolonged contact with electrical devices or devices that have strong magnetic fields.

Devices that can interfere with an ICD include:

  • Cell phones
  • Appliances such as microwave ovens
  • High-tension wires
  • Metal detectors
  • Industrial welders
  • Electrical generators

These devices disrupt the electrical signaling of your ICD and stop it from working properly. You can still use household appliances and cell phones, but avoid close and prolonged exposure. You can walk through security system metal detectors. Someone can check you with a metal detector wand as long as it isn’t held for too long over your ICD site.

Micra® Wireless Pacemaker

The Medtronic Micra® Transcatheter Pacing System (TPS) is a heart device, approved for Medicare reimbursement, that provides patients with the most advanced pacing technology at one-tenth the size of a traditional pacemaker.

Bradycardia is a condition characterized by a slow or irregular heart rhythm, usually fewer than 60 beats per minute. At this rate, the heart is unable to pump enough oxygen-rich blood to the body during normal activity or exercise, causing dizziness, fatigue, shortness of breath or fainting spells. Pacemakers are the most common way to treat bradycardia to help restore the heart's normal rhythm and relieve symptoms by sending electrical impulses to the heart to increase the heart rate.

What is the Micra® Pacemaker?

Micra w Glove

  • Comparable in size to a large vitamin, the Micra TPS is a miniaturized heart device designed to provide the most advanced pacing technology – all while being cosmetically invisible.
  • Made by Medtronic, the Micra TPS is unlike traditional pacemakers because the device does not require cardiac wires (leads) or a surgical “pocket” under the skin to deliver a pacing therapy.
  • Designed to provide a safe alternative to conventional pacemakers – without the complications associated with leads – the Micra TPS is small enough to be delivered through a catheter and implanted directly into the heart with small tines and delivers electrical impulses that pace the heart through an electrode at the end of the device.
  • Customized to each patient’s needs, the Micra TPS automatically adjusts pacing therapy based on a person’s activity levels.

Traditional Pacemaker

Doctors often treat irregular heartbeats with a device called a pacemaker. A permanent pacemaker is a small device that is implanted under the skin (most often in the shoulder area just under the collarbone), and sends electrical signals to start or regulate a slow heartbeat. A permanent pacemaker may be used to make the heart beat if the heart is not functioning properly and has developed an abnormal heart rate or if the electrical pathways are blocked. Pacemakers are typically used for slow arrhythmias such as sinus bradycardia, sick sinus syndrome, or heart block.

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