What is an Electrophysiologist and When Should I See One for my Atrial Fibrillation?
When you learn you have a heart condition, it’s likely you assume you’ll need to visit a cardiologist. However, not all cardiologists specialize in treating every issue related to the heart.
If you have heart arrhythmias or another heart rhythm disorder like atrial fibrillation, you actually should be visiting an electrophysiologist. As both a Cardiologist and Electrophysiologist, patients often ask me what the difference is between the two.
An electrophysiologist is a type of cardiologist. An electrophysiologist receives typically three years of cardiology training and two additional years of electrophysiology training, where we become an expert in heart rhythm conditions.
The main function of the heart is to pump blood throughout the body, which is what cardiologists focus on, but your heart knows it’s time to pump by receiving electrical pulses. When those pulses get out of sequence and cause problems known as arrhythmias, it’s time for an electrophysiologist to step in.
Unlike a cardiologist, who may have only received a year or less of training in the heart’s electrical system, electrophysiologists are experts managing your heart’s rhythm and can provide a more in-depth treatment plan for your condition.
When should a patient with atrial fibrillation go see an electrophysiologist?
The short answer? As soon as possible.
As I’ve explained in past videos and blog posts, atrial fibrillation is a progressive condition that alters the make-up of your heart over time. The more you experience episodes of AFib, the more your heart inherently changes on a cellular level. And the more these changes occur, the harder it will become to successfully manage your AFib.
I’ve had patients come to see me for the first time after having AFib for a year or more, and the first thing I think is that a year or two before I could have provided better treatment options for them. The sooner you get your AFib treatment plan laid out, the better your chances of a successful management will be. Since an electrophysiologist is best qualified to provide you with the medications and procedures necessary to treat your AFib, you need to book your appointment with one as soon as you can.
Those who say that certain procedures or treatment plans for AFib don’t work probably think this because their condition was not addressed as soon as it could have been. This is not to say that after one episode of AFib you need to run out to an electrophysiologist, but in general, the sooner you can get in, the better.
With that being said, there are far fewer electrophysiologists out there than cardiologists, so not everyone will have access to see an electrophysiologist regularly. If you are experiencing symptoms of atrial fibrillation or have questions about your heart condition, visit your primary care doctor before booking an appointment with a specialist.