At University Hospitals Geauga Medical Center, heart rhythm disorders are treated with the latest advancements

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Dr. Samer De Oliveira is an electrophysiologist at UH Geauga Medical Center who diagnoses and creates individualized treatment options for cardiac arrhythmias using the most advanced technology—from pacemakers to catheter ablations. (Photography: Francis Angelone)

By Laura Briedis

We usually take for granted that our heart beats in sync, and it is only when we feel it racing or skipping a beat that we take notice.

For those millions of Americans living with arrhythmias, it is a cause for concern. Arrhythmias occur when the electric signals that regulate your heartbeat don’t work correctly—whether atrial fibrillation (irregular heart rhythm), bradycardia (when your heart beats too slow) or supraventricular tachycardia (when your heart beats too fast).

Part of University Hospitals Harrington Heart & Vascular Institute, the medical experts at UH Geauga Medical Center offer specialized care for patients with arrhythmias.

Leading the charge is Samer De Oliveira, MD, a cardiac electrophysiologist. Fluent in English, Spanish and Portuguese, Dr. De Oliveira completed five fellowships: Brazilian Air Force Hospital, Institute of Cardiovascular Disease in Brazil, University of Barcelona, Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard University in Boston, and University Hospitals in Cleveland.

A subspecialty of cardiology, electrophysiologists diagnose and create individualized treatment options for cardiac arrhythmias using the most advanced technology—from pacemakers to cardiac ablation.

An expert on pacemakers, Dr. De Oliveira has implanted thousands of pacemakers, both with leads and without, to treat patients with slow heart rates that typically are under 50 beats per minute.

The traditional pacemaker—implanted in the chest under the collarbone and connected to your heart through tiny wires called leads—senses when the heart rate falls below a pre-programmed level and automatically sends an electrical signal to restore an optimal heart rate.

Another option is a leadless pacemaker, which is much smaller, measuring about the size of a vitamin. These wireless pacemakers are inserted through a catheter in a blood vessel in the groin and then guided to the heart.

Performed in a cardiac catheterization unit or an electrophysiology lab, this minor surgery does not require hospitalization.

In addition to pacemakers, the electrophysiologists use other devices such as an implantable cardioverter defibrillator, which is both a pacemaker and defibrillator that is connected to the heart and can shock the heart to bring it back to normal rhythm.

“You are never too old to get a pacemaker. I have had patients who were close to 100 years old, and this device improved their quality of life,” Dr. De Oliveira says.

Catheter Ablation
Dr. De Oliveira also performs catheter ablation at the UH Lake West Medical Center to treat atrial fibrillation.

“AFib is an epidemic here in the United States. It is closely related to obesity and factors such as hypertension, diabetes and sleep apnea,” says Dr. De Oliveira, who is an assistant professor of medicine at Case Western Reserve University.

“Ideally, if you can control those risk factors, you can reduce incidence of AFib,” he notes. “But by the time I see these patients, they usually need medical therapy, starting with antiarrhythmic medications and, if needed, catheter ablation.”

During this minimally invasive procedure, catheters are inserted into blood vessels and deliver radiofrequency energy to the areas of the heart, where irregular electrical activity originates, and destroys small areas of heart tissue, creating tiny scars that break up and block the abnormal electrical signals.

It is important to note that some heart arrhythmias are benign, but others can be life threatening. If you are experiencing any symptoms, talk to your primary care doctor or consult with a cardiac specialist.

Do You Have Atrial Fibrillation?
Commonly known as AFib, this is the most prevalent heart rhythm disorder, affecting 5 million Americans. The symptoms can vary from person to person, but common signs include:

  • Heart palpitations or racing heart
  • Decreased energy level
  • Shortness of breath with exercise
  • Chest pain
  • Dizziness, lightheadedness or fainting

If you think you may have a heart arrhythmia, call 440-901-1937 for a consultation.

University Hospitals Geauga Medical Center is located at 13207 Ravenna Road in Chardon. For more information, call 440-901-1937 or visit