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Electrophysiology Services Begin at Grand Strand Regional Medical Center - Treatment of the Heart’s Electrical System

April 14, 2009

Grand Strand Regional Medical Center has opened a new $ 2.4 million state-of-the-art electrophysiology (EP) lab.  The EP lab, the hospital’s third cardiac catheterization lab, is the site for lifesaving procedures that restore the heart’s rhythm, such as implanting pacemakers and automatic defibrillators. 
Electrophysiology (EP) studies allow specialists to diagnose and treat irregularities in heart rhythm.  Robert Leman, MD, and Lacy Sturdivant, MD, both cardiologists/electrophysiologists, have joined the Grand Strand Regional medical staff and specialize in the study and treatment of the heart’s electrical system. Electrophysiology is interventional cardiac care and involves minor surgery. Leman and Sturdivant are also on staff at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) in Charleston.

EP studies include cardiac mapping to diagnose disorders precisely, implanting of pacemakers and automatic defibrillators and ablation for heart arrhythmias. EP studies involve placing wire electrodes within the heart to evaluate abnormal heart rhythms.

EP studies, which started in the late 1970s, have become more common in recent years at facilities with cardiac surgery programs. The Grand Strand Regional EP lab will be the only lab in Brunswick, Horry and Georgetown counties that provides diagnostic studies and treatment.

Dr. Leman and Dr. Sturdivant have been conducting a weekly pacemaker clinic in Myrtle Beach for 10 years which includes new consults, evaluating pacemakers and defibrillators and adjusting medications.

“The addition of the EP lab is another progression in Grand Strand Regional’s comprehensive cardiac program,” said Dr. Leman.  “It is important to offer a wide range of cardiology services, especially in an area that has so many older adults. With the opening of the EP lab, we will be able to treat patients locally that we have been evaluating in the pacemaker clinic.”

EP studies are diagnostic and treatment-focused. A common heart rhythm problem treated in the EP lab is atrial fibrillation, the most common type of arrhythmia.  Signs of atrial fibrillation are an irregular and often very fast heartbeat.  Atrial fibrillation is more prevalent in an aging population and Dr. Leman expects a majority of the EP patients in this area to have this arrhythmia.

“Not all arrhythmias or abnormal heartbeats need medical intervention,” explained Dr. Leman.  “My job is to determine which arrhythmias are dangerous and need to be treated. We can diagnose atrial fib through analysis of the heart’s electrical system and then treat it through medication, lifestyle changes or with ablation or pacemakers,” said Dr. Leman. 

Approximately 80% of heart rhythm disorders are caused by coronary heart disease and cardiomyopathy, while only 20% are congenital problems. Symptoms of heart rhythm disorders include black-outs, dizziness and palpitations.
Doctors will also be implanting permanent pacemakers to treat slow heartbeats and intracardiac defibrillators to treat arrhythmias associated with cardiac arrest.

“Pacemaker and defibrillator technology has really evolved in the last 10 years,” Dr. Leman explained.  “The devices are mini computers and we can monitor them over the telephone and make adjustments without an invasive procedure.”