Electrophysiology (EP) Study

An electrophysiology study involves studying the heart's electrical activity to look for irregularities that cause arrhythmias. Electrophysiology (EP) studies are typically performed in patients with known abnormally fast heart rates, called tachyarrhythmias. Patients with structural congenital heart disease can have any of these arrhythmias but are also more likely than other people to develop atrial flutter and, sometimes, atrial fibrillation. Some patients with specific kinds of ventricular tachycardia may benefit from EP study as well. The key point to remember is that whatever the arrhythmia is called, it is caused by something abnormal in the heart's electrical system.

On the Inside

An EP study is done by placing long, soft, flexible tubes called catheters into the big blood vessels in the body. Usually, catheters are put in the large veins on both sides of the groin and, sometimes, also on the right side of the neck. Patients who have congenital heart disease and have had surgeries that change how the veins and arteries connect – or don’t connect - to the heart may have catheters placed into different blood vessels at different locations. These catheters are maneuvered through the blood vessels and put in specific locations in the heart to map out the heart’s electrical activity.

Getting a Diagnosis

Once a patient is sedated or asleep, the catheters are placed, similar to a large IV. There are no incisions, or sutures. These catheters are small and flexible – like very long spaghetti noodles – and are advanced into different parts of the heart.

Once they're in place inside the heart, the catheters can do two things:

  1. They can sense the electrical activity of the heart and
  2. They can give a small electrical stimulus to the heart to speed up the heart rate. This is called pacing the heart.

Different pacing maneuvers will be delivered to study the electrical activity in the heart – including trying to trigger the arrhythmia. This is important because it identifies the properties of the abnormal electricity, and the location.

An EP Study can be a standalone procedure or can lead to an ablation. Your doctor will discuss this with you.

Keep Exploring

Heart Rhythm Disorders
Millions of people experience irregular or abnormal heartbeats, called arrhythmias, at some point in their lives. Most of the time, they are harmless and happen in healthy people free of heart disease. However, some abnormal heart rhythms can be serious or even deadly. Having other types of heart disease can also increase the risk of arrhythmias.
Pediatrics and Congenital Heart Disease (CHD)
This section is for pediatric patients and families living with heart rhythm disorders and heart rhythm disorders related to congenital heart disease (CHD).
Early Warning Signs
If you are experiencing a racing, pounding, rumbling or flopping feeling in your chest or if you have been fainting, having repeated dizzy spells, feeling lightheaded or you are extremely fatigued, it's time to see a doctor to discuss your heart health.
Common Treatments
Learning about the underlying cause of any heart rhythm disorder provides the basis for selecting the best treatment plan. Information and knowledge about care options, and their risks and benefits help you work with your health care provider to make the best choices.
Lifestyle
Since other heart disorders increase the risk of developing abnormal heart rhythms, lifestyle changes often are recommended. Living a “heart healthy” lifestyle can ease the symptoms experienced with heart rhythm disorders and other heart disorders, and can be beneficial to overall patient health.
The Normal Heart
The heart is a fist-sized muscle that pumps blood through the body 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, without rest. The normal heart is made up of four parts: two atria on the top of the heart (right atrium and left atrium), and two ventricles (right ventricle and left ventricle) which are the muscular chambers on the bottom of the heart that provide the major power to pump blood.