Vol 15, No 3 (2008)
History of Cardiology
Published online: 2008-04-14

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Past and future aspects of clinical electrophysiology

Berndt Lüderitz
Cardiol J 2008;15(3):293-297.


The diagnosis and treatment of clinical electrophysiology has a long and fascinating history. From the earliest time, no clinical symptom impressed the patient (and the physician) more than an irregular heart beat. Although ancient Chinese pulse theory laid the foundation for the study of arrhythmias and clinical electrophysiology in the 5th century BC, the most significant breakthrough in the identification and treatment of cardiac arrhythmias first occurred in this century. In the last decades, our knowledge of electrophysiology and pharmacology has increased exponentially. The enormous clinical significance of cardiac rhythm disturbances has favoured these advances. On the one hand, patients live longer and thus are more likely to experience arrhythmias. On the other hand, circulatory problems of the cardiac vessels have increased enormously, and this has been identified as the primary cause of cardiac rhythm disorders. Coronary heart disease has become not just the most significant disease of all, based on the statistics for cause of death. Arrhythmias are the main complication of ischemic heart disease, and they have been directly linked to the frequent arrhythmogenic sudden death syndrome, which is now presumed to be an avoidable “electrical accident” of the heart.
A retrospective look - often charming in its own right - may not only make it easier to sort through the copious details of this field and so become oriented in this universe of important and less important facts; it may also assist the observer in a chronological vantage point of the subject. The study of clinical electrophysiology is no dry compendium of facts and figures, but rather a dynamic field of study evolving out of the competition between various ideas, intentions and theories. (Cardiol J 2008; 15: 293-297)

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