Heart Rhythm Disorders Care

Heart Rhythm Disorders Care

Our heart rhythm disorders treatment program offers comprehensive care for arrhythmias, including an advanced electrophysiology lab.

A heart rhythm disorder, called an arrhythmia, is characterized by a heartbeat that’s too fast, too slow or uneven. At the Norma Melchor Heart & Vascular Institute at El Camino Hospital, our arrhythmia specialists are dedicated to providing you with the latest advances in arrhythmia treatment. Our professionals commonly participate in clinical trials to discover new therapies and improve the quality of life for people living with arrhythmias.

El Camino Hospital’s electrophysiology lab is equipped with sophisticated diagnostic tools. Our professionals can perform some of the latest techniques to treat arrhythmias, including minimally invasive catheter ablation and implantable devices with remote monitoring.

Your doctor can develop a customized treatment plan to manage your condition, drawing from some of the latest therapies available.

Advanced Diagnosis: Electrophysiology Study (EPS)

Your doctor may use an electrophysiology study (EPS) to assess your arrhythmia. An EPS study is performed using a thin, flexible wire that’s passed through a vessel in your upper thigh or arm to your heart to record your heart's electrical signals. Your doctor may give you an anti-arrhythmia medicine during the test to determine whether it can stop the arrhythmia.

Implantable Cardiac Devices

Implanted resynchronization devices are used to regulate the heartbeat. These small devices, which are placed just under the skin on your chest, send electrical signals to your heart to treat the arrhythmia. A pacemaker is used to regulate a slow heartbeat, and an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) is used to regulate a fast heartbeat.

Implanted devices have been used since the 1990s, and the technology continues to improve. At El Camino Hospital, our arrhythmia specialists use advanced equipment that allows them to monitor your device’s performance and your health status. Real-time data allow your doctor to customize the device to meet your specific needs.

The Next-Generation Cardiac Defibrillator

El Camino Hospital was the first Bay Area hospital to implant the next-generation cardiac defibrillator, called a cardiac-resynchronization-therapy defibrillator (CRT-D) to regulate a fast heartbeat. The improved device is safer, thinner and has a longer-lasting battery — seven years, compared with five years or fewer for older models — than comparable devices on the market.

Catheter Ablation and Cardiac Mapping

Catheter ablation, also called radiofrequency ablation, is one of the most commonly used treatments for all types of rapid heartbeats, including atrial fibrillation and ventricular tachycardia. This procedure uses radiofrequency energy to destroy a small area of heart tissue that’s causing the arrhythmia, which helps restore your heart’s regular heartbeat.

To perform ablation, your doctor makes a small incision in your arm or upper thigh and threads a catheter — a thin, flexible tube — into a vessel to the affected tissue in your heart. The catheter is fitted with a tiny electrode that emits an electrical pulse, which destroys the nerve cells that are causing the irregular heartbeat. The procedure is performed under mild sedation, so it’s relatively painless.

Radiofrequency ablation has a very high success rate and a low risk of complications, and you can resume regular activities in a few days. Arrhythmia specialists at El Camino Hospital have advanced 3-D mapping technology that uses CT imaging to provide a better picture of your heart and vessels. This mapping system allows your doctor to maneuver the catheter with greater accuracy, which further minimizes the risk of complications.

Advanced Care for Atrial Fibrillation

Maze Procedure

Surgical ablation, also called maze heart surgery, is an advanced surgical method that can be used to treat atrial fibrillation (AF). The surgeon makes incisions in the atrium in a maze pattern and immediately closes the incisions. The electrical impulses that cause the arrhythmia can’t cross the incisions, so impulses follow a single path through the maze of scar tissue. This prevents irregular electrical activity and restores normal heart rhythm.

Our arrhythmia experts can perform this as an open heart procedure, as well as a minimally invasive approach that only requires a few small incisions on each side of your chest — which may offer a shorter hospital stay and a faster recovery.

LARIAT Procedure

This minimally invasive therapy can reduce the risk of stroke in people with AF, offering an alternative to surgery. It can be particularly effective for those with AF who are unable to take blood-thinning medications, the standard treatment for preventing strokes.

Surgeons use catheters to create a loop that seals off the left atrial appendage (LAA) from the rest of the heart using the LARIAT® Suture Delivery Device. The left atrial appendage is a part of the heart that excretes hormones and regulates heart contractions, which help move blood through the heart. In people with AF, the LAA doesn’t work properly, allowing blood to pool and form clots, which can lead to stroke.

El Camino Hospital's Norma Melchor Heart & Vascular Institute is among the first Bay Area centers to perform the procedure.

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