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The Electrophysiology Lab

The medical center’s EP Lab continues to distinguish itself in this region through its depth of experience and innovative leadership. The team of experts, including board-certified electrophysiologists, registered nurses, radiologic technologists and cardiovascular technologists, is specially trained in the leading techniques needed to evaluate and treat arrhythmias. The lab, where EP studies are conducted, helps physicians determine the type of treatment plan for each patient. The medical center’s Heart Lung Vascular Institute offers a full spectrum of treatment options, from medication and ablation therapies to implantable devices like pacemakers and defibrillators.

Region’s Only Atrial Fibrillation Center

More than two million Americans currently suffer from atrial fibrillation, or AFib. Known as the most common type of irregular heartbeat, more than 300,000 new AFib cases are diagnosed each year. AFib is characterized as an abnormal, irregular heartbeat and can significantly increase the risk for heart disease and stroke. In response to a growing population of patients with AFib in East Tennessee, the Heart Lung Vascular Institute opened the region’s only Atrial Fibrillation Center in 2008. More than 1,000 patients were treated at the center in 2014. The AFib Center continues to provide the most innovative treatment options for the region and produces excellent outcomes for patients.

Cardiac Ablation Therapy

Cardiac ablation is a catheter-based therapy used to scar or burn away small areas of tissue in the heart. Using advanced 3-D mapping, electrophysiologists can more accurately target these abnormal tissues. The medical center’s team offers ablation therapy for numerous types of arrhythmias, including atrial fibrillation, supraventricular tachycardia and ventricular tachycardia. Many treatments can even be performed in an outpatient setting sometimes allowing patients to return home that same day.

Patient Receives First Mini-Pacemaker Implant

On April 25, 2014, Betty Bilbrey became the first patient in the United States to receive a mini pacemaker implant post FDA approval. The procedure was performed by electrophysiologist William J. Mahlow, MD, clinical assistant professor, and has significantly impacted Betty’s everyday life for the better.

Betty says, “The unique thing about the mini is its size. There’s no weight. I don’t feel it and I am not conscious of it.” The work done by Mahlow and the health care team at the medical center has given Betty the peace of mind she needed. She knows that her care team is constantly monitoring her condition and says, “It’s a wonderful feeling.”

The Mini Pacemaker

More than 20 years ago, physicians at The University of Tennessee Medical Center performed the first cardiac catheter ablation therapy in East Tennessee. In 2014, the medical center was the first in the United States to place a mini pacemaker post-FDA approval (see Betty’s story, sidebar). Though traditional options are used when appropriate, the medical center continues to set the standard of innovative cardiac care for the region by offering two new types of implantable devices for patients with arrhythmias, the mini pacemaker and the subcutaneous implantable cardioverter defibrillator (S-ICD).

The mini pacemaker — the smallest device available today — was specially designed to have a lower, thinner profile. Traditional pacemakers are surgically implanted under the skin in the upper chest and are often visible. However the mini pacemaker reduces the device’s visible profile while decreasing the risk of skin breakdown in thinner patients. The S-ICD is very different from its traditional defibrillator counterpart. Entirely under the skin and not inside the heart or blood vessels the S-ICD helps some patients avoid possible complications. The S-ICD also lowers the risk for infection and can be removed safely and easily if necessary.

Cardiac patient Betty Bilbrey Patients who are interested in an evaluation may request a physician referral or email our Atrial Fibrillation Center at heartlungvascularinstitute@utmck.edu.

The medical center is the only facility in the region to provide laser lead extractions, the safest, most effective approach for removal of chronic pacemaker or ICD leads. The procedure involves passing a laser tip tube over the old lead to cut through scar tissue. Spring/Summer 2015 - 9

Summer/Spring 2015 Frontiers  

Frontiers magazine tells stories of healing, education and discovery at The University of Tennessee Medical Center.