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Specialist centres 10 June 2021

World Heart Rhythm Week 2021

World Heart Rhythm Week kicked off earlier this week. It is a global event aimed at raising awareness and promoting better understanding of heart rhythm disorder or arrhythmias.

Arrhythmia is a fault in the heart’s electrical system, which affects your heart’s pumping rhythm. The abnormal electrical activity makes the heart muscle beat too fast, too slow or in an irregular way.

To celebrate World Heart Rhythm Week, we spoke to Dr Emily Kotschet at MonashHeart. MonashHeart is the cross-site cardiology service of Monash Health – our partner alongside Monash University in delivering the Victorian Heart Hospital, Australia’s first, state-of-the art, stand alone, specialist heart hospital.

Dr Kotschet has extensive experience in arrhythmia management, with special expertise in curative atrial fibrillation (AF) ablation and cardiac genetics. She also inserts pacemakers and implantable defibrillators and performs cardiac resynchronization therapy for heart failure.

We spoke about her role, how we can look after our heart health and what the new Victorian Heart Hospital will mean for cardiac patients in Victoria.

What is your role at MonashHeart?

I am a cardiologist and electrophysiologist, which is an electrician of the heart. I lead the MonashHeart rhythm team in clinical work and research activities.

What does a ‘regular’ day at work look like for you?

My work is centred around the catheterization lab in MonashHeart. This is where we do procedures to cure racing hearts, fix atrial fibrillation (irregular heartbeats) and implant pacemakers.

I start with an educational MonashHeart journal club at 7.30am (after an early morning run and making school lunches). I then start operating at 8.30am. I may do 3 ablation procedures to cure arrhythmias in the morning, then some pacemaker implants in the afternoon.

Between procedures I review inpatients and meet with team members about our current research projects. I also report electrocardiograms, answer many phone calls about patients I look after and grab a coffee. I then finish the workday with a MonashHeart rhythm meeting at 5.30pm. At this meeting, we discuss complex cases and new published journal articles.

Then, I race home to see my kids!

Can you describe your area of expertise? Why did you choose this area of specialisation?

Electrophysiology is a highly specialised area of cardiology, with many devices and procedures that cure cardiac conditions. It is a very satisfying specialty as the majority of patients feel remarkably better with our treatment. I treat children and adults, and sometimes children as they turn into adults and have children, to prevent sudden death and heart failure.

What is heart arrhythmia, and how can we look after our heart health?

Arrhythmia is abnormality in the heartbeat, being slow or fast, regular or irregular. Some patients do not feel arrhythmia, but present with other symptoms like heart failure or stroke. Most patients have some symptoms.

The best therapy to keep our hearts healthy is daily exercise. If everyone did an hour of exercise every day there would be a major reduction in patients having heart symptoms and presenting to hospital. Plus it makes patients feel better too. This can be anything from walking, swimming, pilates or yoga.

Regular exercise was recently proven to reduce the amount of arrhythmia equivalent to taking our strongest medication – an amazing fact. I am a keen runner, so I can attest to how good it makes you feel too.

What excites you most about the new Victorian Heart Hospital?

We will be expanding our catheterization lab access. This will provide more patients with new exciting treatments, earlier on in their disease process. It will enable us to provide, and develop, complex procedures – often improving patients symptoms when they thought there were no further options.

There will be a unique opportunity to interact with the university campus, through co-location with Monash University’s brand-new Victorian Heart Institute. Making research a priority in the hospital, in partnership with Monash University and others, means that the community will have access to cutting-edge cardiac solutions almost as quickly as they can be invented. The Victorian Heart Hospital will be a centre where all our expertise will come together to manage patients with complex medical issues.

How will the new Victorian Heart Hospital improve treatment and outcomes for cardiology patients in Victoria?

The Victorian Heart Hospital will increase access for patients to arrhythmia management and heart failure therapies. It will double the number of catheterization labs and increase our clinics. We will be able to train new doctors, techs and nurses – sharing our expertise to other hospitals and rural areas. We will be able to provide excellent care for patients across the state. This will keep patients feeling well, exercising and working – rather than presenting to hospital with worsening cardiac symptoms.

About the new Victorian Heart Hospital

Located on the Monash University Clayton campus, the new Victorian Heart Hospital will integrate clinical cardiology services, research and education to create of excellence, raising the profile of cardiovascular research, treatment and training. Patients with heart disease will be able to access world-class cardiac care and ground-breaking research, all under one roof.

Due to be completed in late 2022, the Victorian Heart Hospital will have the capacity to provide up to 2,150 cardiac surgery operations per year and manage up to 28,300 cardiac emergency department presentations. The project is being delivered in partnership with Monash Health and Monash University.

Find out more about the Victorian Heart Hospital via our dedicated project page.

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Last updated: 10 June 2021