How we got started
The Department of Cardiology, Christian Medical College, Vellore, since its inception in 1951 under Dr. Kamala Vythialingam, has played a pioneering role in the development of Cardiology in India. It was one of the first two institutions in the country to offer Cardiology as a specialty training in the year 1965. The students who trained in CMC went on to be leaders in various other parts of the country where they started training others.
Pacemaker implantation at CMC was started in the 1970s. It was initially done by the thoracic surgeons. From 1995 this was taken over by Dr. Sunil Chandy our interventional cardiologist who soon trained others in the department. The field of device implantation soon expanded to include ICD and CRT procedures. The first CRT implant in CMC was done in 2003 and the first ICD implant was done in 2007.
Catheter-based radiofrequency ablation as a therapy for arrhythmias using alternating current became popular across the world in the late 90s. In 2004 radiofrequency ablation at CMC was started with Dr. Yash Lokhandwala who had trained under Dr. Hein Wellens at Maastricht, Netherlands. Dr. Lokhandwala used to perform ablation procedures every 2-3 months and was assisted by Dr. Purendra Kumar Pati and Dr. Bobby John. In 2006 Dr. Bobby John started to work with Dr. Prash Sanders from Adelaide Australia towards his Ph.D. His basic research on electrical activity in the atria of patients with rheumatic heart disease won international acclaim.
In 2006 and 2007 Dr. Thomas Peter Professor emeritus UCLA mentored Dr. John Roshan on nuances of performing radiofrequency ablation after which the procedures were done at CMC regularly. In 2009 Dr. David Chase rejoined the institution after having completed his EP fellowship training at Melbourne Australia. Dr. Bobby John subsequently returned from Adelaide Australia after completing his Ph.D. in the same year. The Cardiac Electrophysiology and Pacing Unit was formed at this juncture with Dr. Bobby John, Dr. David Chase, and Dr. John Roshan. The unit has been since then performing all the arrhythmia-related procedures.
A dedicated Cath-lab, separate device follow-up clinic with dedicated personnel managing device-related problems, specialized arrhythmia assessments, use of 3-D mapping technology, and complex ablation procedures were systematically made available since then. Over 3000 radiofrequency ablation procedures have been performed since 2009 which includes complex cases requiring 3-D mapping. The Unit implants over 325 devices every year which includes about 20 CRT and 40 ICD devices. Currently, about 250 ablations are performed yearly, 70 of which are complex and involved 3-D mapping technology.
The Unit has two trained Professors in Electrophysiology who have done three-year hands-on training fellowships each, abroad. The Unit boasts of the first electrophysiologist in the country with a pediatric fellowship and hence has a large volume of pediatric electrophysiology cases. In addition to a dedicated EP Catheterization Lab, the unit has excellent support facilities that include Holter, Head-Up Tilt Testing, Device Clinic, Medical Genetics, Radiology, and Thoracic Surgery back up.