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Hein Heidbuchel


Antwerp University and University Hospital
Department: Cardiology



A general framework to manage athletes with arrhythmias


Management of arrhythmias in athletes often proves to be haphazard undertaking. Many aspects are confused, which ultimately also leads to confusion of the athlete and his/her entourage. This presentation wants to provide a simple conceptual framework to address such complex situations. In fact, management is guided by three principles: 1) what is the prognostic impact of the arrhythmia, i.e. is there any life-threatening danger?; 2) what is the symptomatic impact of the arrhythmia, which may interfere with the subjective capacity of the athlete to continue sports?; 3) what amount of sports can be allowed in the context of the arrhythmic condition, which usually also includes considerations on development of the underlying substrate by continuing sports participation. The answers to these three basic questions will define the final management of the arrhythmic athlete. The framework will be illustrated with examples from athletes with atrial and ventricular arrhythmias.




Actual positions:
- Professor and Chair of Cardiology, Antwerp University, Antwerp, Belgium (2016 - present)
- Guest Professor, Hasselt University, Hasselt, Belgium
Past positions:
- Full Professor, Cardiology – Arrhythmology, University of Leuven and University Hospitals Leuven (1994 – 2014)
- Professor & Director of Arrhythmia Research, Hasselt University and Heart Center, Jessa Hospital, Hasselt, Belgium (2014 – 2016)
MD: 1986, University of Leuven, Leuven, Belgium
Ph. D. in Physiology: 1992 (Cardiac cellular electrophysiology, Prof. Dr. E. Carmeliet)
Specialist Degrees in Internal Medicine and Cardiology: 1993 and 1995 (Univ. Leuven)
NIH Research Fellow (Fogarty International Research) supported by a Fulbright-Hays grant-in-aid; Clinical Fellowship Cardiac Electrophysiology, University of Oklahoma (1993 and 1994, Prof. Dr. W. Jackman).
Special accreditation “Hospital Management and Health Care”: 2005, Univ. Leuven
Fundamental Clinical Investigator, Fund for Scientific Research, Flanders (1996-2006)
Scientific activity:
- >215 publications in international and >35 publications in national peer-reviewed journals (human K+channels, atrial remodeling during atrial fibrillation, ablation, 2D-3D imaging, cardiogenetics, ICD and remote follow-up; sports cardiology and physiology, anticoagulation in AF); 22 book chapters
- >250 active international congress participations, and >200 invited lectures
- Fundamental Clinical Investigator of the Fund for Scientific Research, Flanders (1996-2006)
- Director of the ECG Corelab, Leuven (11 trials), Clinical Trial Coordinating Investigator (2 trials), National Clinical Trial Coordinator (10 trials), Clinical Investigator (>13 trials), DSMB member (5 trials) (thrombolysis, atrial fibrillation, ablation, ICD, health-economics, anticoagulation). GCP Certified 2009
- Past Associate Editor, European Heart Journal (2002-2008). Current Editorial Board Member EP Europace, Acta Cardiologica, Advances in Venous Arterial Thrombosis, and Arrhythmia and Electrophysiology
Review. Reviewer for multiple international journals.
- Member of the 2010 and 2016 ESC Guidelines for the Treatment of Atrial Fibrillation Committee, member of the 2017 HRS Document on MRI and Radiation Exposure for patients with CIEDS, and lead author of the EACPR Recommendations on Sports Participation with Arrhythmias, EACPR
Proposal for a Core Curriculum in Sports Cardiology, EHRA Practical Guide on the Use of NOACs (+Update), and EHRA Practical Guide on Radioprotection in Electrophysiology.
Organisational activity:
To improve the quality of life of the European population by reducing the impact of cardiac arrhythmias and reduce sudden cardiac death.
The European Heart House – 2035 route des Colles – Les Templiers – BP 179 – 06903 Sophia Antipolis Cedex – France
Web site : - Email contacts : EHRAatescardio[pnkts]org


- President elect
- EHRA Secretary and Executive Board Member (2015-2017)
- other EHRA: chair (2009-2013) and member (2005-2009) of the Educational Committee. Board Member 2009-2013. Course director of the EHRA Case-based and Simulator Courses 2008-2011, EHRA Advanced EP Course 2013, and EHRA Courses for Affilliated Societies (Egypt 2012&2013; Russia 2013).
- EACPR: Chair of the Section on Sports Cardiology of the European Society of Cardiology / EACPR (2010-2012) and nucleus member (2006- 2014). EACPR Board Member (2010-2012)
- ESC: member of the ESC Education in Cardiology Committee (2009-2013), ESC Task Force on Education Online (2010-2012) and Planning Committee ESC Education "Stroke management & prevention in AF"
- Belgian Society of Cardiology Board Member (2005 – 2011)
- Belgian Heart Rhythm Organisation (BeHRA) Nucleus Member (1995 – present)