Cardiac electrophysiologists are highly specialized cardiologists that have been trained to diagnose and monitor the electrical activities of the heart, performing procedures such as cardiac stress tests.

About Cardiac Electrophysiology

Cardiac electrophysiologists are physicians that have been trained to diagnose, research, and treat heart rhythm disorders. Most conditions affecting the heart beat are a result of dysfunctional or abnormal electrical activities within the heart. Cardiac electrophysiologists are trained to treat conditions such as heart palpitations, slow and fast heart rates (bradycardia and tachycardia, respectively), atrial flutters and fibrillations, heart arrhythmias, and many other conditions.

When studying and diagnosing patients with heart conditions, cardiac electrophysiologists may employ a wide range of tests and procedures. When studying a patient with an abnormal heartbeat, these specialists may employ an EPS study, or electrophysiology study. During this diagnostic procedure, electrodes are placed within the patient’s heart. The electrodes send back signals that measure the electrical activities in both the muscle cells and heart – alerting the physician to any abnormalities within the electrical signals.

In addition to monitoring the patient’s electrical activity of the heart, the physician may force the heart into producing an abnormal beat, which may allow the specialist to pinpoint the underlying cause of the condition. During this study, the physician may also provide the patient with medications. Additional diagnostic tests may include electrocardiograms (known as EKG or ECG), tilt-table testing, electrocardiographic monitoring, and Holter monitoring, among other procedures. Cardiac electrophysiologists are also capable of providing treatment procedures such as the implantation of cardioverter-defibrillators (ICDs) and pacemakers, left atrial appendage occlusions, catheter ablations and laser lead extractions, among others.

Cardiac Electrophysiology Education & Training

The training and educational path of a cardiac electrophysiologist begins with the completion of a four year undergraduate degree, usually focused on the sciences. After applying to and completing four years of medical school, the physician must undergo a three year residency in internal medicine.

After completing a three year internal medicine residency program, the physician must complete an additional three years of more specialized training in the form of a two to three year clinical cardiology fellowship. As a fellow, the physician receives hands on training in the diagnosis, treatment and management of cardiovascular and related disorders. During this time, the physician diagnoses and treats patients while under the supervision of experienced cardiologists.

Following a clinical cardiology fellowship, the physician must undergo more specialized training in the field of cardiac electrophysiology. The physician is introduced to the techniques and procedures practiced by cardiac electrophysiologists, including cardiac stress testing and intracardiac electrophysiology studies. After completing all of the requisite educational requirements, many cardiac electrophysiologists seek board certification in their primary specialties and subspecialty from the American Board of Internal Medicine. Like all physicians, the cardiac electrophysiologist must acquire state licensure in order to practice medicine.