Uptick in Ablation Procedures Linked to Improved Technology

Feb 16, 2021 at 05:23 pm by admin

Cardiac electrophysiologist Monica Lo touts efficiencies at Arkansas Heart Hospital

Cardiac electrophysiologist Monica Lo, MD, is highly regarded at the Arkansas Heart Hospital, not only for her expertise as a cardiac electrophysiologist, but for being vibrant, kind and adept at explaining procedures to patients and helping them navigate what can be a difficult and frightening time in their lives.

Lo, a native of Taiwan who moved to Texas when she was 12, had never been to Arkansas before finishing her electrophysiology fellowship at the University of Texas (UT) Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, where she also received her medical degree in internal medicine and did a fellowship in cardiology.

She was recruited along with her husband, Daniel Sherbet, MD, an interventional cardiologist, by Arkansas Heart Hospital in 2013.

"We had never been to Arkansas, but when we interviewed at the Arkansas Heart Hospital, we thought, what an incredible place to practice medicine," Lo said. "And we took a chance and moved."

Electrophysiology is highly specialized, so it is often a mystery to many. Lo said the technology and therapeutics have changed and improved drastically.

"Now we often have a cure for arrhythmia, rather than life-long mediations," she said. "Even though many arrhythmias are not life threatening, they definitely affect quality of life. This is important as people live longer."

Catheter ablation procedures that can be used for arrhythmias, atrial fibrillation and other common problems with abnormal electrical signals in the heart are becoming more and more common. Lo said patients are savvy: they often have already researched and read about the procedures before they come to an office visit.

Lo said because of the efficiency of the Arkansas Heart Hospital, they are able to provide excellent care to a high volume of patients weekly.

There has been an uptick in that procedure in the past decade because of the success linked to improved technology. Patients who undergo ablation report being happy to feel better and not need medications long term.

One thing Lo likes about her specialty is that she gets to see a wide range of patients.

"Many patients with supraventricular tachycardia are younger (late teens, early 20s)," she said. "Atrial fibrillation is related to age, but because of risk factors (hypertension, obesity, alcohol use, genetics), we are seeing younger patients with atrial fibrillation."

When Lo moved from Taiwan to a small coastal town in Texas, she didn't know any English and had to translate her school work into Mandarin, learn the material, then translate it back to English to take her tests.

"Additionally, I had to learn the culture and figure out the pre-teen/teenage years as a complete outsider," she said. "It was quite an adjustment. My parents both worked, so my main caretaker was my paternal great-grandmother. My great-grandmother immigrated with us to the U.S. when she was 80 years old, as my mother stayed in Taiwan because of her job."

In high school, she took her great-grandmother to her doctors' appointments. Lo saw how the diagnosis of colon cancer was made and treated. She had great admiration for how her great-grandmother's physician teams interacted with her and saved her life.

"I wanted to make a difference in people's lives as they had," she said.

Lo loved every rotation in medical school. When it was time to decide on a residency, people asked, "Are you a doer or are you a thinker?" The thought is, if you're a doer, you would enter a surgical field. If you're a thinker, you would enter a primary care field.

"I loved both - to have a relationship with the patients, to think about complex issues, but also to do procedures to fix the problems," Lo said. "Cardiology offers all of the above."

In addition to ablation, Lo also implants devices such as pacemakers, and defibrillators to correct low heart rate and prevent sudden cardiac death.

Some studies have shown the heart is damaged in as many as 75 percent of COVID-19 survivors.

"Many COVID survivors have dysautonomia, with a heightened adrenaline tone," Lo said. "Their heart rate can increase quickly with any activity. This takes time to resolve and really needs cardiac conditioning. Like any virus, COVID can cause myocarditis. This can potentially cause sudden cardiac death. So, for very active individuals like student athletes, we usually get an EKG and an echocardiogram to evaluate heart muscle function. If the above is abnormal, we would also consider cardiac MRI."

She recommends primary care providers obtain an EKG from COVID-19 survivors who are having difficulties, and make referrals to a specialist if the EKG is abnormal.

Despite having English as a second language, Lo has excelled in academics. She graduated with honors from Rice University in Houston, Texas, and was inducted into the Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society at UT Southwestern. Lo has been awarded the American Heart Association Women in Cardiology Trainee Award for Excellence. An active member of the American College of Cardiology and the Heart Rhythm Society, Lo has given several presentations at the organization's national meetings.

Lo and her family love to travel and she likes to plan events, so the past year with the COVID-19 restriction have been very different.

"My family and I have taken some car trips and enjoyed the lake, hiking, outdoors activities to socially distance," she said. "My husband and I have a 7-year-old daughter, Olivia, who is an aspiring veterinarian and artist, and keeps our hands full."

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