Savannah cardiologist treats abnormalities of the heart's electrical system
Sub-specialty: Clinical Cardiac Electrophysiology
11700 Mercy Blvd., Plaza D, Building 1, Suite A
St. Joseph's/Candler Advanced Heart Rhythm Center
Undergraduate: Malone College, Canton, Ohio
Medical School: Medical College of Ohio, Toledo, Ohio
Cardiology Fellowship: University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa
Clinical Cardiac Electrophysiology Fellowship: University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa
What does a cardiac electrophysiologist do?
A clinical cardiac electrophysiologist is basically a heart electrician. We are different than the interventional cardiologists (whom I refer to as the heart plumbers) who fix blockages in the heart blood vessels with stents and balloons. We work with abnormalities of the heart electrical system, which include fast and slow heart beats, as well as the heart chambers being out of sync with each other when the heart is failing.
We use specialized medications to treat heart rhythm problems, burn or freeze abnormal electrical tissue in the heart, or implant devices such as pacemakers for slow rhythms or defibrillators to prevent sudden death from very fast lethal heart rhythms. We also diagnose and treat conditions which lead to passing out (syncope).
Why did you choose to specialize in heart health?
The heart is a fascinating multifaceted organ. It works as a pump, has a plumbing system, and even has an electrical system. In this field, I am able to think and work through challenging patient cases from an academic standpoint, but also be able to intervene in a tangible manner by performing procedures which can fix the patient’s problem.
What kinds of heart problems do your patients face?
I see patients who have fast heart rhythms such as atrial fibrillation, atrial flutter, ‘SVT’ and ventricular tachycardia/fibrillation. There also are patients with slow heart rhythms due to sick sinus (the heart’s natural pacemaker) syndrome or heart block which is an electrical blockage (not involving the arteries). There are also patients with decreased heart function called heart failure and genetic conditions, such as ‘long QT syndrome’ which may lead to sudden death and conditions causing patients to pass out.
How do you determine if a patient needs to have a procedure, such as a pacemaker implant, ablation or even The Watchman?
As with any medical condition, there are multiple factors to consider when treating heart rhythm disorders, including the severity of the condition and symptoms. Other related medical conditions also play into the decision making process. Also, there are multiple guidelines in place for treatment of rhythm disorders, as well as cardiac device implantation. Primarily, I consider the individual patient and then go from there.
Beyond coming up with an individually tailored evidence-based and guideline-driven plan, it is most important to consider the patient and patient’s family’s wishes and make sure they understand their specific condition, my recommendations, other options for treatment, as well as possible risks of these treatments.
To be considered for the Watchman, the patient needs to have atrial fibrillation, have indications for blood thinners, but have a reason not to take the blood thinner long-term due to risks.
Do you have a story where you thought, ‘This is why I chose to practice cardiology?’
When I was a medical student, I did a rotation in cardiology. I was present for a procedure called a cardioversion, which is shocking the heart from a fast rhythm such as atrial fibrillation back to a normal rhythm while the patient is sedated. This procedure is performed usually if a patient does not respond to medications for the condition.
The attending physician let me perform the procedure. The patient converted from atrial fibrillation to a normal rhythm immediately, and when the patient woke up, felt much better. Seeing how I could make an immediate difference not only in the patient’s condition, but also make them feel better so soon led me down the path to cardiology as my chosen profession.
What are two pieces of advice you give your patients to improve heart health?
One cannot completely fight against aging and genetics, but there is a lot people can do. Diet and exercise – including maintaining a healthy weight – are the two most important things. Also, seeing one’s primary physician regularly to prevent or treat risk factors such as high blood pressure and diabetes is also imperative.
Patients should take an active role in their health and be vigilant. They need to do all they can to stay healthy, but also seek help as soon as possible if something doesn’t feel right.
Achievements: The American Dream, which I believe is still alive in this country. Part of my family fled to the U.S. from Russia occupied Ukraine at the end of World War II. My maternal grandfather, who is still alive today and as spry as ever, wanted to be a physician when he came to the U.S., but was unable to do so because he had to work to help support his family. I am the first and only physician in my immediate family, fulfilling his own dream. When I graduated from medical school, following the ceremony, he was the first one from my family I saw. He ran to me, with tears of pride and joy in his eyes, to hug me and congratulate me.
Family: I am blessed to be happily married to my beautiful and talented wife, Mary Kathryn Kendig. We recently had twins, Charles Arthur “Charlie” and Mary Julia, born Sept. 23, 2016.
Hobbies/Interest: Our twins, music