Marilyn Cox, M.D. and Farhat Khairallah, M.D., both board-certified electrophysiologists and members of the Southern Medical Group (SMG), specialize in heart rhythm problems. These specialists see a variety of patients-most commonly those whose previous heart attacks are causing decreased heart function. "The heart muscle has been damaged by the heart attack. That's what we call the 'ejection fraction' or the amount of blood that the heart pumps. When this ejection fraction drops below 30 to 35 percent for people who have already had heart attacks, there is a high risk of sudden cardiac death. That's where we come in. We screen these patients and give them an implantable defibrillator that prevents them from dying suddenly."
Both Dr. Cox and Dr. Khairallah see patients who have irregular heartbeats known as arrhythmias. "Abnormal conduction systems in the heart can cause people to have rapid rhythms either in the top chambers of the heart, also known as atria, or in the lower chambers of the heart, also known as ventricles. These arrhythmias can happen anywhere in the heart." To cure an arrhythmia, an electrophysiologist can do an invasive procedure called an electrophysiology study. "An electrophysiology study is a procedure in which a catheter is inserted into the heart, "says Dr. Cox, "in order to perform specific measurements of the heart's electrical activity. These measurements are particularly helpful in the diagnosis of arrhythmias."
The doctors agree that new technology in the field is very exciting-like the mapping system that "allows us to create a three-dimensional geographical map of the heart. We can pinpoint to the millimeter the origin of the arrhythmia."