An electrophysiologist — also referred to as a cardiac electrophysiologist, arrhythmia specialist or EP — is a doctor with a specialization in abnormal heart rhythms.
Electrophysiologists test the electrical activity of your heart to diagnosis the source of your arrhythmias (irregular heartbeats) to help determine a suitable treatment.
Although most electrophysiologists are cardiologists with years of additional training, some electrophysiologists started as surgeons or anesthesiologists.
If your heartbeat is too slow (lower than 60 beats per minute) or too fast (more than 100 beats per minute) an electrophysiologist can help find the cause of your irregular heartbeat and recommend treatment.
You also might be referred to an electrophysiologist if you are diagnosed with atrial fibrillation.
If it is determined that you need invasive treatment, your electrophysiologist will likely lead or be part of the team that performs the catheter ablation or implantation of the pacemaker, defibrillator (ICD), or cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT).
Electrophysiologists use their training to diagnose and treat a number of conditions including:
- atrial fibrillation, irregular heart rhythm
- bradycardia, when the heartbeat is too slow
- sudden cardiac arrest, when the heart suddenly stops
- tachycardia, when the heart beats too fast
- supraventricular tachycardia, a sudden very fast heartbeat
- ventricular tachycardia, very fast heartbeat
- ventricular fibrillation, a fluttering of the heart muscle
The tests that an electrophysiologist performs include:
- electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG)
- electrophysiology study
When an abnormal heartbeat is discovered, your doctor or cardiologist might recommend an electrophysiology study (EPS).
The study is performed by an electrophysiologist who will insert one or more specialized electrode catheters in your groin or neck into a blood vessel that leads to your heart.
Using the catheters, the electrophysiologist will send electrical signals to you heart and record your heart’s electrical activity.
The EPS will help determine:
- the source of the abnormal heartbeat
- which medicines might work to treat your arrhythmia
- if you need an ICD (implantable cardioverter defibrillator) or a pacemaker
- if you need a catheter ablation (using a catheter to destroy the very small part of the heart that is causing arrhythmia).
- your risk for problems such as cardiac arrest
If your doctor or cardiologist discovers that you have an arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat), they will likely refer you to an electrophysiologist.
An electrophysiologist is a doctor that has additional years of training to specialize in the electrical activity of your heart. The electrophysiologist will have at their disposal a variety of tests to properly diagnose your condition and recommend treatment for you.