Dr. Ratika Parkash
Keeping the beat: Dr. Ratika Parkash works to improve outcomes for patients with heart rhythm problems
Arrythmias, or irregular heartbeats, are a significant danger for people with heart failure. They are often caused by scarring that occurs in the heart muscle after a heart attack. “Scarring can cause a short circuit in the heart’s electrical activity,” explains Dr. Ratika Parkash, a cardiac electrophysiologist at Capital Health and assistant professor at Dalhousie Medical School. “Fortunately, there are many ways to treat arrhythmias.”
A procedure known as ablation is used to treat one of the most common arrhythmias, atrial fibrillation, but it is only successful 60 to 70 per cent of the time. Dr. Parkash recently received funding from the Nova Scotia Health Research Foundation for a clinical trial to see if a hypertension drug can improve the cure rate of these procedures.
Dr. Parkash is co-principal investigator of a Heart & Stroke Foundation-funded study of the effects of cardiac re-synchronization therapy (CRT) on ventricular arrhythmias in patients with advanced heart failure. “New since 2002, CRT has dramatically improved survival and quality of life in people with heart failure, but it’s not understood how,” she says. “Dr. John Sapp and I suspect that CRT may work by modulating ventricular arrhythmias… we want to test this hypothesis.”
Dr. Parkash received the Greg Ferrier Award for her proposal seeking funding for this study, which ranked first in the Heart & Stroke Foundation's 2007 competition.
In addition to her expertise in heart rhythm problems, Dr. Parkash has a masters degree in clinical epidemiology from the Harvard School of Public Health that enables her to conduct health services and outcomes studies that complement her clinical research.
She has already set up a registry of heart patients in Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island who have been referred to receive a defibrillator. She is looking at many aspects of defibrillator use, including factors that influence whether or not a patient receives one. These studies build on her earlier work, which sparked a national response to her discovery that this lifesaving device is used far less than it should be.
In 2008, Dr. Parkash received a Dalhousie Medical Research Foundation Award of Excellence in Clinical Research for her outstanding accomplishments.