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, M.D., (born 13 November 1935, The Hague) is a Dutch cardiologist who is considered one of the founding fathers of the cardiology subspecialty known as clinical cardiac electrophysiology. Clinical cardiac electrophysiology enables patients with cardiac arrhythmmias to be subjected to catheter electrode mapping and stimulation studies. Paul Puech, first in Mexico and later in France; Benjamin Scherlag and Onkar Narula in the USA; and Dirk Durrer and Philippe Coumel in Europe were the field’s pioneers in the 1950s and 1960s. The field’s second wave of innovators used these techniques to unravel the mechanisms of tachycardia in humans and set the bases for their treatment. Among them, Hein Wellens in Europe and Kenneth Rosen, John Gallagher, and Mark Josephson in the USA had the greatest impact as researchers and teachers. Josephson is the author of the first and most successful textbook of clinical cardiac electrophysiology, now in its fourth edition.
Wellens, known among European cardiologists as “the giant of Maastricht”, has for many years been associated with the University of Limburg School of Medicine in Maastricht, Netherlands. At his department of cardiology, many future clinical cardiac electrophysiologists trained from 1976 until his retirement in 2002.
As a pupil and collaborator of the late Professor Dirk Durrer in Amsterdam, Dr. Wellens was involved in the early developments in programmed electrical stimulation of the heart in patients with the Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome. In these patients, cardiac arrhythmias it was shown for the very first time that were first shown to be possibly initiated and terminated by critically timed premature beats. In 1971, he reported on the use of programmed electrical stimulation of the heart in patients with atrial flutter, AV nodal tachycardia, and accessory atrioventricular connections. In 1972, he showed that the arrhythmia of patients with ventricular tachycardia could also reproducibly be initiated and terminated by timed premature stimuli. These investigations were the basis for the new surgical and pacing approaches to the treatment of cardiac arrhythmias that became known as “cardiac electrophysiology”. to be Wellens also demonstrated that the reproducible initiation and termination of arrhythmias by programmed electrical stimulation of the heart allowed the study of the effect of antiarrhythmic drugs on the mechanism of the arrhythmia. In 1977, he moved to the new University of Limburg in Maastricht, Netherlands, to develop academic cardiology there. Starting from scratch, he created an internationally known center for the study and treatment of cardiac arrhythmias.