Heart and Arrhythmia Specialist in Dallas
Mark Link, M.D., is a nationally recognized expert in electrophysiology, and is considered one of the top cardiac specialists in Dallas. He treats patients who have problems in their heart’s electrical system, causing cardiac rhythm disorders known as arrhythmias.
Heart rhythm disorders are complex, comprising many distinct conditions, but there are now better treatment options than ever before.
“Over the past few decades,” says Dr. Link, the Director of Cardiac Electrophysiology at UT Southwestern, “the care of arrhythmias has been revolutionized.”
Dr. Link has been at the forefront of that revolution – as a critical member of Heart Rhythm Society and American Heart Association’s task forces and guideline committees on arrhythmias, cardiomyopathy, and other cardiovascular abnormalities.
Creating a Center of Excellence for Treating Arrhythmias
In arrhythmias, the heart may beat too fast, too slow, or erratically. When the heart’s rhythm is off, it can’t pump blood effectively.
Ventricular arrhythmias (VAs), which originate in the heart’s lower chambers, are the most dangerous type of cardiac arrhythmias and can lead to sudden death. VAs are most commonly secondary to cardiac disease caused by coronary artery disease. However, other cardiac diseases caused by genetic abnormalities, such as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and long QT Syndrome, can also put a person at risk of life threatening arrhythmias. Determining whether life-threatening arrhythmias are possible in a patient is a role of an electrophysiologist.
Arrhythmias may also be present in the upper chambers of the heart (the atria). In contrast to ventricular arrhythmias, atrial arrhythmias do not increase the risk of sudden cardiac death. In atrial fibrillation (AFib), the most common arrhythmia, the heart’s upper chambers beat out of synch with its lower chambers. AFib raises a patient’s risk for stroke, chronic heart failure, and other serious conditions.
Dr. Link is leading a consolidation of UT Southwestern’s already outstanding AFib resources into a center of excellence for comprehensive diagnosis and treatment of AFib. The center provides collaborative care and coordinated access to advanced technologies and clinical trials, while also helping patients address risk factors such as sleep apnea, diabetes, and hypertension.
Developments in HCM
Dr. Link is also an expert in hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM), an abnormal thickening of the heart muscle.
In some people, HCM causes arrhythmias that can lead to stroke or sudden death.
“UT Southwestern has a longstanding tradition of excellence in the diagnosis and treatment of HCM,” Dr. Link says. “We are focused on discovering who has the disease, then proactively identifying and reducing their risk for sudden cardiac death. For example, many athletes who die suddenly are found to have HCM, but the hearts of athletes also may enlarge as a physiologic adaptation to exercise. So there is a lot of gray area to explore.”
For HCM patients at risk for sudden death, the recent development of subcutaneous or “sub-q” implantable cardiac defibrillators (S-ICDs), which pose fewer risks and complications than previous generations of ICDs, opens up new treatment possibilities. Dr. Link notes that the potential impact of the new technology is especially significant for young people, who may be living with a defibrillator for many years.
Amid the variety of arrhythmias and the individual differences of the people they affect, all patients have basically the same concerns, fears, and issues.
“I always find it very rewarding to sit down with patients and families to discuss treatment options. This is a specialty in which shared decision-making is essential,” Dr. Link says.