Scientific Sessions brings leaders from around the world together. Heart Rhythm Daily this year has asked some of those leaders for their thoughts.
European Heart Rhythm Association President Gerhard Hindricks, MD, is a professor of Cardiology and director of the Department of Electrophysiology, Leipzig University Heart Center, Leipzig, Germany. Before this year’s meeting, Prof. Hindricks shared his thoughts on several EP-related topics:
Why did you enter the electrophysiology field?
As with many things in life, my involvement in cardiac arrhythmias, in a way, happened by chance. I was looking for a topic for my medical thesis and met with Hartmut Gülker, a German cardiologist and researcher in the field of experimental studies on arrhythmias in acute myocardial ischemia and infarction.
I had no clue what this was all about, but I went to visit the research team for a couple of experiments. This was a key experience for me, and I joined the group right away and continued working with them far beyond my thesis. During one of the experiments, the topic of ablation came up for the first time. This idea fascinated me from the first moment. We started to develop experimental models to further work in this field. I had a phone call with Peter Osypka, the inventor of the first radiofrequency ablation generator. As a medical student, I called him late in the evening at home. He was very supportive of what we were doing. Three days later, we received his ablation device to work with for free.
Why is it important for you to be at Scientific Sessions?
The annual congress of the Heart Rhythm Society is one of the leading events in the field of arrhythmias and electrophysiology. This meeting is the place to see the latest in science, technology, and innovation. But even more important, this is the place to meet with colleagues from all over the world for not only scientific and clinical networking, but also friendship and partnership. It’s a pleasure to be here, and HRS is a great host. And we’re happy to have them as guests for another leading event coming up: EHRA Europace/Cardiostim in Nice, France, in June.
What are you looking forward to at this year’s event?
My first look will go to the latest studies in the field of catheter ablation, especially in atrial fibrillation and ventricular tachycardia. I am very interested to see if there is progress for AF catheter ablation to affect hard outcome parameters such as stroke, to check what´s going on in the field of ablation of persistent AF and, of course, in the field of preventing complications. For VT ablation, I am particularly keen on studies exploring the need for epicardial ablation. In addition, I will closely monitor what’s going on in the field of implant-based support for heart failure patients and telemedicine – topics for future studies and of high clinical relevance.
Why is it important for your organization and HRS to work together?
Like our friends and partners at HRS, we think globally. We think co-operative, not competitive! We have comparable or even the same issues and challenges. That’s why we are traditionally working closely together to learn from each other, share experiences, and explore synergies in our strategies. Our relationship with HRS is excellent, and we’ll continue to work for an even stronger and deeper partnership. I personally see great options in the field of strategic development and decision-making. What’s the best future strategy for congress? How to cope with economic challenges? How do we produce the best education for the dollar… or euro? HRS and EHRA are global leaders and very strong together. And we will invite and incorporate our partners from APHRS in Asia and SOLAECE in South America to build up a global network.
What’s the biggest challenge or opportunity facing your organization?
To give health issues around cardiac rhythm management a stronger voice to reach administrations, insurance providers, and healthcare politicians. They all need to know and understand that cardiac rhythm health problems continue to be a major cause of morbidity and mortality. We have to remind them of their responsibility to provide financial resources for basic research and scientific studies, but also adequate financing of clinical treatments. The sectors of clinical trials and education are quickly changing, and traditional models will no longer work. I see a lot of space for more involvement and a lot of chances and opportunities in the area.
What’s the biggest challenge or opportunity facing the field of electrophysiology?
We are fighting with too many roadblocks limiting the successful completion of clinical trials that are needed to improve the quality of patient care. The timelines currently needed to investigate a couple hundred patients in the fields of AF ablation and heart failure or, even worse, in catheter ablation of VT in structural heart disease, are unacceptably long. It takes years for patient inclusion with a huge impact on patient compliance and data quality. However, HRS and EHRA have taken action and recently introduced the VT Study Group to coordinate and promote clinical trials in the VT field.