Electrophysiology, also called invasive cardiac electrophysiology — is a series of investigations carried out on the heart's electrical activity. The heart's electrical system generates signals or impulses that control the timing and duration of the heartbeats. It helps cardiologists create a very detailed map of how these signals navigate between each heartbeat.
An electrophysiology study can help find out the cause of irregular heart rhythms or arrhythmias. Sometimes it is recommended to anticipate the risk of sudden cardiac death. It is performed in a hospital by cardiologists who have special training in heart rhythm disorders called electrophysiologists.
An electrophysiology study provides a health care provider with a very detailed view of how electrical signals move across the heart. You may be recommended to do an EP study if:
As with many other procedures, an electrophysiology study has certain risks, of which some can be serious. Consult your health care provider about the benefits and risks of an electrophysiology study to see if this is the right procedure for you. The possible risks of electrophysiology study include:
Do not consume anything after midnight on the day of an electrophysiology study. If you are on any prescription medications, confirm from your health care provider if you should continue taking them before your test.
Your care provider will counsel you about any other special instructions you need to follow before or after an electrophysiology study.
An electrophysiology study is performed in a hospital. An IV cannula is inserted in the hand or arm. Several electrodes are placed on the chest to monitor the heartbeat during the procedure.
Before commencing with the procedure, you will typically be given a sedative through the IV line to make you feel relaxed. Sometimes, general anaesthesia might be used, which means you will be put in a sleep-like state.
During an electrophysiology study, long, thin tubes called catheters are inserted in three or more heart areas. A healthcare provider shaves the hair at the site where these catheters will be inserted, usually in the groin. Then the area will be numbed by giving a local anaesthetic.
The cardiologist introduces plastic tubes similar to large IVs (sheaths) into a blood vessel. The catheters are guided using moving X-ray images through the sheaths up to the heart. Electrical signals are passed to the heart through the tips of the catheters to record their electrical activity.
Depending on your specific condition, several different tests can be done during an EP study, including:
After the electrophysiology procedure, you will be shifted to a recovery area to rest calmly and quietly for four to six hours. Your vital signs like heartbeat and blood pressure will be monitored the whole time to check for complications.
Most people are allowed to go home the same day after the procedure. However, in certain cases, a night stay at the hospital may be recommended.
The results of your electrophysiology study will be shared by your health care provider after the test, usually at a follow-up appointment. Based on the results, recommendations for treatment may also be made.
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