Welcome, and thank you for visiting the home on the web for Heart Rhythm Specialist of Southern California (HRSSC).  

Located in the heart of San Fernando Valley, HRSSC is a medical group specializing in the area of Cardiac Electrophysiology.  Our practice is devoted to the management of arrhythmias, or irregular heartbeat. 

On this website, you may find information about our servicesour physicians, and our office locations.  In addition, there is a special section on patient resources, which is dedicated entirely to the education of patients with arrhythmias.  Videos by Dr. James Ong on Atrial Fibrillation can be found here.

What is Cardiac Electrophysiology?

An arrhythmia is a disorder involving the electrical system of the heart.  Such disorder leads to heartbeats that are too fast, too slow, or just irregular and may result in symptoms of palpitation, fatigue, dizziness, fainting, racing heartbeat, and even sudden cardiac arrest.  These electrical problems of the heart are distinguished from those involving the arteries and muscles of the heart.

Cardiac Electrophysiology, simply stated, is the study of electrical impulses of the heart.  It is a sub-specialty of Cardiology dedicated exclusively to the management of arrhythmias.  A Cardiac Electrophysiologist is, therefore, a board certified Cardiologist with additional qualification and certification in the area of Clinical Cardiac Electrophysiology, commonly referred to as "Electrophysiology."   To become a Cardiac Electrophysiologist, one must go through specialized training program and board certification.

The following example will illustrate the difference between a Cardiologist and an Electrophysiologist.  A Cardiologist specializes in opening up clotted arteries with procedures like angioplasty and coronary stents and a Cardiac Electrophysiologist focuses on fixing rhythm disorders with procedures like electrophysiology study and radiofrequency ablation.  While both are cardiologists, they deal with different areas of the heart.  The former is often referred to as the "plumber" and the latter the "electrician."  

While some patients with arrhythmias can be taken care of by their "plumber," many patients with irregular heartbeat may require specialized care by an "electrician," especially if they require procedures such as radiofrequency ablation which is performed only by a Cardiac Electrophysiologist.

The Development of the Field of Cardiac Electrophysiology

For the field of Cardiac Electrophysiology, the last two decades of the 20th century witnessed an explosive growth both in our understanding of the mechanisms of arrhythmias and in our ability to provide treatments that really make a difference.  Unraveling of the electrical circuits of atrial flutter and atrial fibrillation led to refinement in their treatment.  Minimally invasive procedures such as radiofrequency ablation resulted in the complete cure and elimination of many arrhythmias which previously could only be managed by multiple potentially toxic drugs or by major open heart surgery.  Today, electrophysiology study and ablation are no longer considered esoteric procedures but are rapidly becoming the standard of care for many forms of arrhythmias.

The end of the 20th century also saw an increased acceptance, by physicians and by the public, of a life-saving procedure called theimplantable Cardioverter-Defibrillator, or ICD for short.  Many lives have been saved by this device which automatically delivers an electrical shock to a heart that has gone into a life-threatening arrhythmia and cardiac arrest.  The shock can instantly restore the heart back to its normal rhythm and resuscitate the patient, who otherwise would have died.  During the first year of the 21st century, such a device was implanted in our vice-president Dick Cheney.  This publicity led to further public awareness of this important medical device.

Besides the popularization of the ICD, the first decade of the 21st century was also highlighted by two major breakthroughs in Electrophysiology.  First, the advent of "Biventricular" pacing, or cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT), resulted in significant improvement in the quality of life in many patients with congestive heart failure, many of whom were on the verge of needing a heart transplant.  Second, further refinement in 3-D mapping have made it feasible to cure with radiofrequency ablation many complex arrhythmias (including those in patients with surgically corrected congenital heart diseases) which previously could only be managed with drugs and pacemakers.  Such mapping technique also made it possible and practical to cure atrial fibrillation with ablation, a procedure which would have taken over 12 hours to perform a decade ago, but can be completed in 2-3 hours today.  In 2007, radiofrequency ablation is no longer considered a "last resort" treatment for patients with atrial fibrillation, but is a viable treatment option for patients who do not, can not, or wishes not to be on chronic drug therapy.

In summary, rapid advancement in the management of arrhythmias in the past several decades has led to the creation of the sub-specialty of Cardiac Electrophysiology.  Physicians specializing in this field, or Cardiac Electrophysiologists, can help many patients with arrhythmias by providing specialized, curative procedures such as radiofrequency ablation.  Provision of such care, we believe, can best be accomplished in a sub-specialty environment dedicated exclusively to the management of arrhythmias, thus the launching of Heart Rhythm Specialists of Southern California.

Mission Statement of Heart Rhythm Specialists of Southern California

Established in 2004 by James Ong, M.D., Heart Rhythm Specialists of Southern California is the first medical institution in San Fernando Valley dedicated exclusively to the care of patients with arrhythmias.  Its service area encompasses San Fernando Valley and Conejo Valley.

At Heart Rhythm Specialists of Southern California, we endeavor to provide the most personable, comprehensive, and state-of-the-art management for patients with arrhythmias.  In our offices, patients are always attended to by their physicians, not by a nurse practitioner or a physician assistant.  We offer a complete range of office-based diagnostic studies as well as hospital-based therapeutic procedures which are specifically tailored toward patients with irregular heartbeats.  Our physicians diligently strive to stay at the forefront of their specialty through research and continuing medical education.

The Center was founded on a simple premise that underlies the creation of all specialties in the field of medicine.  That is, a physician who concentrates on one specialized area of medicine likely has more experience and is more skilled in that particular area compared to another physician who is not.  This is true for medicine, as well as law, dentistry, and essentially all aspects of life.  A "Jack of all trades" simply is unlikely (though not impossible) to be the best in every one of his trades.

Thus, at Heart Rhythm Specialists of Southern California, we concentrate our work only in the field of Cardiac Electrophysiology.  We believe strongly that clinical experience is the foundation of good outcome and experience is best obtained through a practice in which a physician is dedicated to performing high-volume specialized surgery within his or her own area.  Thus, while our physicians are all "triple board certified" in Internal MedicineCardiovascular Diseases, and Clinical Cardiac Electrophysiology, we limit our practice only to the latter.  We pride ourselves as a busy tertiary referral center with excellent relationship with our area internists and cardiologists.

Along the same line, we choose our affiliation with our local hospitals and medical centers based on the availability of the most advanced technologies and the best support team to "get the job done."  Hospitals vary dramatically in the quality of their equipment and level of staff experiences; these factors are critical in our physicians' choice of the hospitals so that we can maintain a high standard of care for our patients.