Tag Archives: electrophysiologist

Finding the Right Beat: Pacemaker puts Blythewood Woman Back in the Cycling Seat

Sharon Sherbourne knew something wasn’t right. An avid cyclist and runner, she was training for a long-distance race when her legs felt heavy and her heart rate remained low even when she was exercising vigorously.

The 67 year old had begun an exercise routine about 15 years earlier, while she helped implement wellness programs as vice president of human resources at a Blythewood manufacturing plant. “I knew I had to walk the walk, so I started doing aerobics. A friend from church got me involved in the running community, so I started training for a 5K, and that morphed into doing an 8K.”

Sharon cycling in Blythewood

She eventually completed four full 26-mile marathons, along with numerous half-marathons, 10Ks and 5Ks. About 10 years ago, she added long-distance cycling to her workouts, but recently, she found herself out of breath climbing a flight of stairs. She made an appointment to see a doctor.

“My first cardiologist told me I was simply getting older and I probably didn’t need to be doing all that stuff,” Sharon said. “But I knew it was more than that. You know your own body.”

Then, she was referred to Lexington Cardiology and William W. Brabham, MD, FHRS, an electrophysiologist with Lexington Cardiology, a Lexington Medical Center physician practice. Dr. Brabham specializes in the treatment of abnormal heart rhythms. He scheduled a treadmill stress test for Sharon.

“As her workload increased on the treadmill, her heart rate peaked in the 70s to 80s, which is very unusual for her age. At 67, it wouldn’t be unreasonable for her heart rate to reach the 150s to 160s, especially with the level of activity that she typically would participate in,” Dr. Brabham said.

He diagnosed her problem as chronotropic incompetence, which is the inability of the heart to increase its rate to a level that matches a person’s activity level, combined with AV block, a condition where the signals from the top chambers of the heart don’t make it to the bottom chambers.

“It appeared most likely a result of age-related changes in the conduction system of the heart,” he said. “Just the way the rest of your body ages, the conduction system in your heart can age to varying degrees.”

Dr. William Brabham, Lexington Cardiology

He recommended a pacemaker, a device that monitors heart rate and stimulates the heart if it drops below a pre-programmed rate. A dual-chamber pacemaker, the type Sharon has, also restores the connection between the top and bottom chambers of the heart.

Sharon’s pacemaker was implanted in March; by late June, she was training for a 100-mile bike ride.

“I feel fantastic. It had gotten to the point where, when I was walking up stairs at the house, I’d get to the top and I’d be completely out of breath. So I had my pacemaker implant on March 7, I came home March 8 and the very first thing I did was walk up the stairs to see if it had made a difference. It had.”

For Sharon, a mother of two, grandmother of six and great-grandmother of one, the experience drove home the importance of listening to her body and going the extra mile for answers.

“Age should not be the marker for anything. Your physical fitness level, what you enjoy doing, what you’re used to doing — that should be what drives your behavior and drives your medical practitioner’s response,” she said. “I felt that Dr. Brabham really understood that and worked with me to make all of it happen.”

Detecting Abnormal Heartbeats with Your Apple Watch

Patients have a new tool to help identify a type of abnormal heart rhythm. The newly released Apple Watch Series 4 enables users to take an electrocardiogram (EKG) from their wrist to check for atrial fibrillation (A-Fib). The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) cleared the device for this purpose late last year. Since then, we’ve heard a lot of questions from patients about it. Christopher P. Rowley, MD, electrophysiologist with Lexington Cardiology, had some answers.

Photo Courtesy: Apple

Q: What is atrial fibrillation?
A: Atrial fibrillation is an abnormal heart rhythm in which the top part of the heart quivers instead of beating effectively. The danger is that blood there could become stagnant and clot, then leave the heart and cause a life-threatening stroke or embolism.

Q: How does the new Apple Watch detect atrial fibrillation?
A: The Apple Watch uses a unique method where sensors will allow users to record a heart rhythm. The watch can send them a notification if it detects an irregular rhythm that appears to be atrial fibrillation. Previous versions of the Apple Watch have detected for heart rate, too.

Dr. Christopher Rowley

Q: What does this new technology mean for patient?
A: The idea of having patients monitor heart rhythms at home is not new. We often give patients monitors attached to their chest with stickers or a patch to wear at home. They record their heart rhythm when they’re having symptoms. Then, we correlate the symptoms with the results from the monitor.

The watch aims to do the same thing. It will be worn most of the day. It may even detect an abnormal heart rhythm the patient doesn’t know about. It means we’re empowering consumers to present data to their doctor rather than just starting to figure out a diagnosis during a visit.

Q: What should you do if your watch detects an abnormal rhythm?
A: Call your doctor. It’s also important to point out that the tool is not intended for people who have already been diagnosed with atrial fibrillation, or as a substitute for seeing your doctor on a regular basis.

Q: Will it detect all abnormal heart rhythms?
A: No. The watch only checks for atrial fibrillation.

Q: How do you treat atrial fibrillation?
A: The treatment is different for each patient. It ranges from simple to complex medications, to an ablation where we go into the heart to identify the bad electrical signals and make them go away.

Monitoring Your Heartbeat: There’s An App For That!

We use our smartphones for a lot of things. But what about to monitor our heartbeats? Believe it or not, there’s a device and an app for that. Lexington Medical Center is using a new technology called Confirm Rx that uses wireness technology to record a patient’s heart rhythm and transmit pertinent information to his or her doctor. Dr. Christopher Rowley, an electrophysiologist with Lexington Cardiology at Lexington Medical Center, explains how it works and who it’s for in this WLTX interview.

LexMed.com/Know
#JustSayKnow