Invasive cardiac electrophysiology studies began as diagnostic studies. The past decade has seen the introduction of several new treatments which have broadened the scope of invasive electrophysiology studies. In particular, the development of catheter ablation techniques increasingly allows curative treatment to be delivered in the catheter laboratory. The workload of electrophysiological procedures has steadily increased in our tertiary referral centre. Over 1000 patients have been treated in the past 20 years and it is projected that 219 new patients will be treated in 1991 and 342 procedures will be carried out. Over 25% of patients now receive either catheter or surgical ablation and almost 80% of these are cured permanently without the need for further drug treatment. The development of safer techniques for catheter ablation has led to its increased use and a decline in surgical ablations. Because catheter ablation is a much simpler and less traumatic procedure than surgical ablation there are great advantages both for the patient and in terms of cost-effectiveness. Antitachycardia pacing, relatively common in 1985, has now largely been supplanted by ablation and implantation of defibrillators. As the tendency to non-pharmacological treatment increases and evidence mounts that cost-effectiveness is greater for electrophysiological treatments, the implications for the funding of electrophysiology services grow. The initially high cost of curative treatment needs to be balanced against the longer term and potentially higher costs of palliative drug treatment. The potential to cure patients with catheter procedures may lead to a greater demand for this expertise and a need for an increase in training and facilities.
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