Doctor Daniel Correa calls himself an electrician for the heart.
“You have to go back to the basic fact, and that is the heart is a pump. The work of the heart is to pump blood to our systems. As the heart is a pump, and the signal for it to squeeze and squish out the blood is electricity.”
To that end, Correa works with patients who are dealing with irregular heartbeats, and other issues that either affect the electrical signals to the heart, or are affected by electrical signals.
He works in Memorial Hospital’s Electrophysiology Lab – a facility that’s only about a year and a half old and is already changing the way patients are treated in southern Illinois.
Correa and his team initially work with patients dealing with things like atrial fibrillation – a form of irregular heartbeat – and other conditions through medication and lifestyle changes.
“Atrial fibrillation is very common. It can affect up to five-percent of the U.S. population above the age of 65. So age is certainly a risk factor. High blood pressure, diabetes, sleep apnea, those are all conditions that can predispose you to atrial fibrillation. However atrial fibrillation also occurs in people who don’t have any heart rhythm or heart abnormality at all – they have a perfectly normal heart.”
But sometimes, he says, drugs and other therapies just aren’t enough.
“What we have decided to do at that point is kind of fix the electrical glitches in the heart or change the electrical properties of the heart, not through medications, but through catheters that are inserted into the heart.”
Inside the EP lab, Correa and his team create a 3-D image of the heart they’re working on. They can use ablation to make repairs to specific parts of the heart, through a minimally invasive procedure that allows patients to recover faster and with better overall results. Correa says the growth in new technology makes what was impossible just a few years ago, possible.
“The advantage of doing the 3 dimensional image is that you can constantly check, and rotate, and figure out precisely where you are without having to step on the X-ray all the time. More than that, you can annotate the structure – so you know where you have been and where you need to go.”
Several different kinds of studies and fixes can be done inside the electrophysiology lab. Correa says they’ve done about 150 EP procedures in the first 18 months, and he expects that to continue to increase as time goes on.