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Electrophysiology

Learning you have an arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat) can be stressful. But you’re in expert hands at the Center for Cardiovascular Heath at Virginia Mason Franciscan Health.

Our cardiac electrophysiology (EP) team diagnoses and treats the entire spectrum of heart rhythm disorders, including the most difficult-to-treat cases. Patients come to us from across the Pacific Northwest — and across the United States — because of our expertise and depth of experience.

Arrhythmia treatment: Why choose us?

As our patient, you have access to providers who specialize in treating all types of atrial and ventricular arrhythmias. Our team of electrophysiologists, advanced practice providers and nurses work together to deliver leading-edge care with a compassionate approach.

With our program, you benefit from:

  • High-volume center: Our team performs more than 2,000 ablation procedures yearly — significantly more than many other centers across the United States. Studies show that highly experienced teams provide better outcomes. Meet our electrophysiologists.
  • Advanced AFib care: the only center in the region to offer the convergent procedure for atrial fibrillation (AFib). This state-of-the-art procedure can restore normal rhythm in the most advanced cases. Learn more about our AFib care.
  • Specialized expertise: Our team is one of the most experienced in the region in performing epicardial ablation for ventricular tachycardia. Only high-volume centers with skilled electrophysiologists usually perform this highly complex procedure. We also provide mechanical circulatory support during these procedures in very high-risk patients. Read more about advanced catheter ablation.
  • Ongoing support: You receive a dedicated nurse navigator who is your partner throughout your care. They answer your questions, provide health education and help you schedule appointments. 
  • Personalized care: We take the time to listen to your goals and explain your treatment options. Our approach empowers you to make informed decisions about your care. 

Diagnosing arrhythmias

Our heart rhythm specialists talk to you about your symptoms and health history. Then, we determine which tests you may need for an accurate diagnosis. Depending on your needs, we may recommend: 

EP study

Our electrophysiologists use EP studies to diagnose and treat arrhythmias in one procedure. EP studies involve guiding a thin wire (catheter) through a vein or artery in your leg and into your heart. The catheter is equipped with tiny sensors that:

  • Record your heart’s electrical activity as it beats.
  • Send electrical signals to trigger your heart to slow down or speed up. This helps the doctors identify where the irregular heartbeat may be coming from.

After we identify the area of heart tissue causing the arrhythmia, we use the catheter to permanently damage (ablate) those cells causing the arrhythmia. We perform thousands of EP studies and ablations each year in our state-of-the-art facilities. Learn how we diagnose and treat arrhythmias in our cardiac labs.   

Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG)

Our cardiology team performs numerous ECGs, which are noninvasive arrhythmia tests. EP technicians place stickers (electrodes) on your chest, arms and legs. Wires from the electrodes are connected to a special computer that provides details about your heart rhythm and rate. Then, our board-certified electrophysiologists analyze the results.

Patch monitor

We provide the latest wearable cardiac monitors that are small and easy to use. These devices record your heart rate for several days or weeks and send the information to our team. We mail the device directly to your home, so you don’t need an additional office visit. You usually wear this device for one to two weeks.

Implantable loop recorder

Our team implants this tiny device under your skin in the chest area. The loop recorder collects information about your heart rhythm on a beat-to-beat basis and transmits it to our team. This device may work well for people with occasional palpitations (fluttering or rapid heartbeat) or fainting spells. A loop recorder can work for up to three years.

Tilt table testing

This test combines an ECG with a moving table to find the cause of syncope (fainting). It can diagnose or rule out postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS) and certain cardiovascular conditions. 

Heart imaging tests

If you need additional imaging tests, you will receive seamless care at Virginia Mason Franciscan Health. An EP nurse navigator helps you schedule appointments, and the results are sent to our team. We work with our Imaging and Radiology department to provide:

  • Cardiac CT
  • Cardiac MRI
  • Echocardiogram (heart ultrasound)

Arrhythmia treatments we provide

Treatment for an irregular heartbeat may involve medications, procedures, devices or a combination of these. We customize your care plan to meet your needs and goals. Our team provides the full range of treatments, including:

  • Many medications can treat arrhythmias, so we customize the type and dosage for you. Our team, including our pharmacists, works with you to find a medication regimen that provides results while minimizing side effects. You also receive regular follow-up care to ensure your medication is working for you.

  • Cardiac catheter ablation can provide life-changing benefits for many people with heart rhythm disorders. These minimally invasive procedures can often prevent the need for major surgery or long-term medications.

    During cardiac ablation, our specialists guide wires (catheters) into your heart. We use the catheter to find the cause of the arrhythmia and permanently damage the faulty cells. With only small incisions, you recover faster and usually go home the next day.

    At the Center for Cardiovascular Health, you have access to the most complex ablation procedures that aren’t widely available. We are the only program in the region to provide the convergent procedure to treat persistent (chronic) AFib. Our team is also among a few in the region to provide complex lifesaving ventricular tachycardia (VT) ablations and complex atrial arrhythmia ablations.

  • We provide the most advanced devices for heart rhythm disorders, including leadless pacemakers. Our team features leaders in cardiac physiologic pacing, such as left bundle branch area pacing and His bundle pacing, which stimulates your heart’s natural electrical system. 

    We also offer advanced cardiac device remote monitoring. This means you can receive exceptional device care no matter where you are. Learn more about our pacemakers and implantable devices.

  • If other therapies haven’t worked for you, we may recommend the maze procedure. We partner with cardiac surgeons and electrophysiologists to provide this heart surgery. During the maze procedure, our specialists create scar tissue on your heart to correct the arrhythmia. Learn more about cardiac surgery at Virginia Mason Franciscan Health.

Contact us

Our specialists care for patients across the Puget Sound area and beyond.