If you have an abnormal heart rhythm (commonly known as an arrhythmia), your heart may feel as if it is fluttering, skipping a beat or beating irregularly. There are many different types of arrhythmias, but atrial fibrillation, or AFib, is the most common.
Arrhythmias may affect your heart’s ability to pump blood. Some types of untreated arrhythmias can lead to sudden death, fainting, and strokes, so fast diagnosis and treatment are critical.
The Frank P. Tourville Sr. Arrhythmia Treatment Center at MUSC Health is the only center in South Carolina with doctors who have the expertise to provide a comprehensive range of arrhythmia treatment options.
The Frank P. Tourville Sr. Arrhythmia Center was made possible by a grant from Zeus Industrial Products, Inc., honoring its founder, Frank P. Tourville, Sr. of Orangeburg, S.C. The grant enables the Center to expand the medical staff and facilities in Ashley River Tower hospital, to fund its EP fellowship program, and to fund both clinical and basic science research in arrhythmias. The grant also endows a professorship for Dr. J. Marcus Wharton, the Center’s director. MUSC expresses its profound gratitude for these gifts.
Arrhythmia Care at the MUSC Health Heart & Vascular Center: Why Choose Us?
Our heart rhythm experts (called electrophysiologists) are recognized nationally and internationally for their clinical expertise in treating all types of arrhythmias. Meet our team.
At the Arrhythmia Treatment Center, you benefit from:
- Expert Diagnosis: Our electrophysiology (EP) labs feature the latest equipment to test the electrical activity of your heart. Our advanced heart mapping equipment provides flawless resolution, allowing our team to identify problems that previously went undetected.
- Advanced Treatments: Through clinical trials, our doctors help pioneer many new arrhythmia treatments. We are the only medical center in South Carolina to offer the WATCHMAN™ device, which reduces stroke risk in patients with arrhythmias. We also were the first to offer wireless implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs) to regulate heart rhythms. Learn more about our arrhythmia treatments.
- Convenient Follow-Up Care: If your treatment includes an implantable device, regular visits to our heart device clinics can keep your heart going strong. Our telehealth program allows us to electronically monitor your heart condition from the comfort of your home. We can resolve issues quickly before they become major problems.
- Prompt, Personalized Attention: With six heart rhythm experts on staff, we see new patients quickly. These experts partner with our cardiac surgeons to develop treatment plans tailored to your unique conditions and needs. We work closely with your referring physician, and you return to your provider’s care as soon as treatment is complete.
As the only academic medical center in South Carolina, our doctors can offer arrhythmia treatment options not available elsewhere in the state.
Arrhythmia Treatments at the MUSC Health Heart & Vascular Center
Arrhythmia treatments at MUSC Health include:
- WATCHMAN™ device
- LARIAT™ device
- Wireless implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs)
- MRI-compatible pacemakers
- Catheter ablation
- Epicardial ablation
- Medication management
- Electrical cardioversion
- Micra™ Leadless Pacemaker
Our heart rhythm specialists are the only ones in South Carolina with the expertise to implant the WATCHMAN device. Our team played an integral part in clinical trials testing the device before it received FDA approval.
About the WATCHMAN device:
- The WATCHMAN device permanently seals off the left atrial appendage (LAA). The LAA is the section of the heart where blood clots often form in people who have atrial fibrillation (AFib), the most common arrhythmia.
- The device prevents blood clots from entering the bloodstream and causing a stroke.
MUSC is the only medical center in South Carolina to offer the LARIAT device. This catheter-based, nonsurgical procedure is a good alternative for patients with arrhythmias who cannot take blood-thinning medications.
About the LARIAT device:
- People who have atrial fibrillation (AFib), the most common arrhythmia, often form blood clots in a section of the heart known as the left atrial appendage (LAA).
- During a catheter-based, nonsurgical procedure, our doctors use the LARIAT device to place and tighten a loop stitch around the base of the LAA.
- The LARIAT device permanently seals off the LAA, thereby preventing blood clots from entering the bloodstream and causing a stroke.
- People who undergo the LARIAT procedure may not need to take blood-thinning medications.
The heart rhythm team at MUSC Health’s Heart & Vascular Center was integral in the clinical trials for wireless implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs). Our doctors have years of experience with this device.
About wireless ICDs:
- ICDs work like pacemakers, detecting dangerous arrhythmias and sending electrical pulses to help restore a normal rhythm.
- Wireless ICDs, also known as under-the-skin or subcutaneous ICDs (S-ICD), use a pulse generator implanted near your armpit and a series of electrodes placed near your heart. Traditional ICDs use wires, or leads, placed directly into your heart.
- Our heart rhythm specialists implant wireless ICDs using a minimally-invasive procedure performed in our specialized electrophysiology (EP) labs. In comparison, implanting a traditional, wired ICD requires open heart surgery.
- Wireless ICDs carry less risk of infection and lower complication rates than wired ICDs.
Pacemakers monitor your heart rate and automatically send electrical pulses to control irregular rhythms. Magnets used in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans can disrupt pacemakers.
Benefits of MRI-compatible pacemakers:
- Your chances of needing an MRI — to check for problems with the brain, nerves, bones, or to detect certain types of cancer — increase with age.
- With an MRI-compatible pacemaker, you can safely undergo an MRI scan without worry.
Our heart rhythm experts specialize in the ablation of both simple and very complex arrhythmias, including those that have not been successfully abated by catheter or surgical ablation attempts. We use a minimally invasive catheter-based ablation approach in our dedicated electrophysiology (EP) labs. These labs feature special equipment that allows our doctors to test the electrical activity of your heart. Both radiofrequency electrical current ablation and cryoablation are available for destruction of tissue causing an arrhythmia.
About catheter ablation:
- Our doctors guide catheters (thin wires) through a blood vessel in your neck or groin to reach your heart.
- A machine sends energy in the form of either heat (radiofrequency ablation) or extreme cold (cryoablation) through a catheter. This heat destroys small areas of tissue inside your heart that are causing irregular heart rhythms.
MUSC Health’s heart rhythm experts are the only ones in South Carolina with the expertise to perform epicardial ablation. This advanced, minimally invasive procedure requires specialized training and skill.
About epicardial ablation:
- Epicardial ablation enables our doctors to target arrhythmia-inducing areas on the outside of your heart without the need for invasive open heart surgery.
- Our doctors guide catheters (thin wires) under your rib cage into the pericardium sac surrounding your heart.
- A machine sends energy in the form of heat through the catheter. This heat destroys small areas of heart tissue on the outside of your heart that are causing irregular heart rhythms.
If you have mild arrhythmia symptoms, medications may help. Our doctors may prescribe more than one medication or try different doses to get your symptoms under control.
About medication management:
- Heart rate control medications, such as beta blockers, calcium channel blockers, and digoxin, slow your heart rate or reduce the strength of your heart contractions.
- Heart rhythm control medications help the upper and lower parts of your heart work together more efficiently.
- Blood thinners, also known as anticoagulants, lower stroke risk by preventing blood clots from forming.
Electrical cardioversion delivers an electrical shock to your heart. This minimally invasive procedure resets your heart to a normal rhythm by disrupting the impulses causing the arrhythmia.
About electrical cardioversion:
- Our heart rhythm specialists may recommend electrical cardioversion if you need fast treatment for severe symptoms.
- We can test the electrical activity of your heart in our specialized electrophysiology (EP) labs to determine whether cardioversion is right for you.
- The actual cardioversion procedure takes place in one of our advanced EP labs.
MUSC Health is among a select few medical centers in South Carolina to offer Micra, the world’s smallest leadless (wire-free) pacemaker. This device regulates heart rhythm in patients who have bradycardia, a slow or irregular heartbeat of fewer than 60 beats per minute.
About the Micra device:
- The Micra pacemaker is approximately the size of a large vitamin and weighs the same as a penny. The device implants directly into the heart and delivers electrical stimulation without the need for wires.
- Our doctors use a transcatheter procedure via a vein in your leg to place the device into the heart’s lower chamber (right ventricle).
- Your doctor may prefer Micra’s transcatheter approach if veins in your chest are blocked, making you unable to receive a traditional pacemaker. Patients with normal anatomy also may be good candidates for this device depending on the heart rhythm problem.
- Micra is MRI-compatible, which means you can safely undergo advanced imaging diagnostic procedures.
- Like traditional pacemakers, Micra automatically adjusts your heart rate based on your activity level.
- Because Micra has no wires, there is less likelihood of malfunction due to wire damage or wear and tear. Additionally, Micra doesn’t require the creation of a pocket between the skin and muscle of your chest to hold the device. This reduces the risk of infection, bleeding and other complications.
- Should you need more than one heart device in the future, doctors can turn off Micra and implant a new device (while Micra remains in your heart) without risk of electrical interaction.