Participants in the fall 2017 Mini Med School on atrial fibrillation (AFib) and arrhythmias filled two lecture halls at the Health Sciences Learning Center.

Richard Page, MD, George R. and Elaine Love Professor and Chair, Department of Medicine, and Laurel Rice, MD, Ben Miller Peckham, MD, PhD, Distinguished Professor and Chair, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, led the free, public event.

A doctor presenting a lecture
Lee Eckhardt was one of the featured speakers.

Presenters were Lee Eckhardt, MD, MS (PG ’07), associate professor, Michael Field, MD, associate professor (CHS), and Miguel Leal, MD (PG ’10, ’11), assistant professor (CHS), Division of Cardiovascular Medicine; and Nicholas Von Bergen, MD, associate professor (CHS), Department of Pediatrics.

Reflecting on his training, Page noted how meeting a teen patient with Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome led to his passion for understanding heart rhythm problems.

“I saw her in clinic one day, and the next day I watched her cardiologist hold her beating heart and tell the surgeon where to place the incision,” he said, adding that it was an open-chest procedure requiring a week in the hospital; now it’s done via catheter and requires a one-day stay.

A medical device
A leadless transcatheter pacemaker

Eckhardt, one of few electrophysiologists who manage a National Institutes of Health-funded lab, has a research interest in sudden cardiac death syndrome. She explained how induced pluripotent stem cells made into heart-type cells can be used to understand the mechanisms of abnormal heart rhythms.

Von Bergen noted that some of his most difficult cases include treating patients in the womb with electrophysiology techniques.

Field discussed that AFib is common and can increase the risk of stroke. A recently approved medical device can be used to prevent stroke from AFib in patients who are not good candidates for long-term use of blood-thinning medications.

Leal, who specializes in device-based therapy for arrhythmias, indicated that, on average, 9 percent of people who have sudden cardiac death outside of a hospital survive and stressed the importance of easily accessible automated electronic defibrillators. He also described improvements in implantable cardioverter-defibrillators, concluding, “the future is fast approaching.”