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What is electrophysiology?

Electrophysiology (EP) is a cardiac specialty that involves the diagnosis and treatment of heart rhythm disorders.

Patients with rhythm abnormalities often have diseases of the electrical system of their heart. Several of these diseases fall under the category of cardiomyopathy. This is an acquired or inherited disease in which the heart muscle becomes abnormally large, thick or stiff. In some cases, the heart’s muscle tissue becomes scar tissue. The heart weakens as cardiomyopathy progresses, and has more difficulty pumping blood throughout the body and keeping a steady electrical rhythm. The result may be heart failure or disrhythmia/arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat). Heart failure may then cause fluid buildup in the lungs, abdomen or lower extremities. A weakened heart also may cause heart valve problems. Disrhythmia can occur with a normal heart rate, or with heart rates that are slow or rapid.

Anyone can develop cardiomyopathy, but different types of cardiomyopathy are present in different age groups. Disrhythmia is common in older adults, most seriously in those over 60, and the number of incidences is increasing. One factor is that older adults often have heart disease and other health problems that can lead to disrhythmia. They also may be more reactive to the side effects of medicines, some of which can cause disrhythmia. Some types of disrhythmia, such as paroxysmal supraventricular tachycardia (PSVT), including Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome, are more frequent in children and young adults. Disrhythmia is more common in people who have had heart attacks, heart failure, cardiomyopathy, abnormal heart tissue, leaking or narrowed heart vessels, congenital heart defects, high blood pressure, heart infections, diabetes, sleep apnea, thyroid problems, heart surgery, cocaine or amphetamine use, and blood chemical imbalance.

Robert Gallo has had multiple heart procedures over the years. Thanks to the cardiac team at Southside Heart & Lung, he’s smooth sailing and enjoying life.
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Our approach

Our electrophysiologists are highly skilled specialists trained to diagnose and treat all types of heart rhythm disorders. That’s why patients rely on us for quality care from an expert. We are advancing electrophysiology with regionally and nationally recognized specialists who are committed to treating the full spectrum of heart rhythm disorders.


Our board-certified electrophysiologists provide comprehensive evaluations and treatment strategies for all forms of disrhythmia and heart rhythm abnormalities. For cardiomyopathy, if there are no symptoms, no treatment is needed. However, when symptoms are present, the disease progresses causing severe symptoms and serious complications. Heart failure symptoms are the most common and usually develop slowly. However, sometimes symptoms may start suddenly and severely. For disrhythmia, symptoms may include fatigue, palpitations, too fast or too slow heartbeat, shortness of breath, and heart attacks.


There are surgical and nonsurgical treatments for cardiomyopathy. 

Nonsurgical treatments include:

  • Lifestyle management
  • Medications
  • Nonsurgical procedures

Surgical options include:

  • Invasive surgery
  • Implanted devices to correct disrhythmia
  • Heart transplant, in severe cases

Diagnostic and treatment services include:

  • LARIAT (left atrial appendage occlusion)
  • Cardioversion—electricity or drugs are used to normalize heart rhythm
  • Ablation—a catheter (a thin, flexible tube) is inserted into the patient’s blood vessel and gently guided to the heart, so a physician can carefully use energy to destroy malfunctioning tissue. Abnormal rhythms can be permanently treated with ablation using freezing energy (cryoablation) or heating energy (radiofrequency ablation), or a laser
  • Noninvasive testing and heart monitoring
  • Lead management program, including lead extraction
  • Clinical trials, including the WATCHMAN™ for atrial fibrillation
  • Pacemaker, defibrillator and biventricular device implantation
  • Cardiac resynchronizatioon therapy
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See our approach to exceptional cardiac care

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