2015 Top Doc: Thomas Mattioni MD

Category: Profiles Issue: April 2015
Group Free
Pin It

Cardiac Electrophysiology

Med School/Year Graduated: Northwestern University, 1981
Years in Practice: 24

Cardiologists are the plumbers, and you’re the electrician. Is that electrocardiology in a nutshell?
Yes! Although hearts don’t blow fuses or make sparks, many of the heart’s electrical problems are due to the biological equivalent of faulty wiring, short-circuits and depleted batteries.

What made you pursue this specialty in cardiac health?
Cardiac electrophysiology was in its infancy when I chose it as a career.
We had limited tools and options for patients with otherwise hopeless
conditions. I wanted to be a part of the effort to give patients that hope.

What new research is on the horizon?
The interface of electronics and cardiac function leads to potential therapies that are limited only by the imagination. The future holds many promises of new devices to improve quality and length of life for patients. I think our increased understanding of the role of our genes in the development of disease will markedly change how we treat many conditions.

When would you recommend medication vs. devices for arrhythmia?
There are some situations when the choice is obviously one or the other. But many times either option is reasonable. What the patient wants and expects is very important in those cases. My job is to make sure that the patient understands everything they need to know so that they can help me give them the best advice I can.

If you could liken the electrical activity of a human heart to a man-made machine, what would it be?
A high-performance automobile engine. All the power and performance of these highly engineered machines requires relatively tiny electrical events at precisely the correct time and place for it to work perfectly.

Do you envision a day when they will perfect the artificial heart? Will cardiac electrophysiologists such as yourself still have a role?
Yes, I think that day will come. I think there will certainly be at least some organic component given the intimate contact with living tissues that is required. Once perfected, I’m sorry to say, you probably won’t need an electrophysiologist. Any rhythm disturbances would be fixed by an electrical engineer.

“If I wasn’t a doctor, I’d be...”
An electrical engineer! I want to help all of those patients with
artificial hearts!