A cardiac electrophysiology study, also called an EP study, is a test of the electrical conduction system of your heart. This type of testing can determine what is causing abnormal electrical activity in the heart, as well as help your doctor determine which treatment or medication may be most effective.
The minimally invasive study is done by threading catheters into a vein where the leg connects to the abdomen to measure the electrical signals generated by your heart.
Electrophysiology study: Reasons to test
There are a variety of situations in which a cardiologist may order an electrophysiology test or other heart monitoring studies. Diagnostic tests evaluate dizziness, palpitations, loss of consciousness resulting from insufficient blood flow to the brain, slow heart rate, fast heart rate, abnormal or irregular heart rhythm, atrial fibrillation and heart failure treatment.
Your doctor may order tests for a number of reasons, including:
- Suspicion that you may have a condition that is affecting the electrical activity of your heart and causing an irregular heartbeat
- Testing prior to receiving an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator, so your cardiologist knows what type of device is best suited for your condition
- To better understand how effective your current medications are for an arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat)
Upon completion of diagnostic evaluation, our specialists may perform the necessary intervention at the same time.
Electrophysiology study: Preparation
If you are a candidate for an electrophysiology study, you will come to the hospital to undergo the test. Here’s how you’ll prepare:
- You may need to stop or alter your medication schedule for a few days prior to the test. Your doctor will speak with you about this.
- You shouldn’t eat or drink anything after midnight on the night before your study. If you’ll be taking medication that morning, take it with only a tiny sip of water.
- You should wear comfortable clothes and leave all jewelry and valuables at home.
- Since this is typically an outpatient procedure, you should bring a trusted adult with you to drive you home afterward.
Electrophysiology study: What to expect
This test takes two to four hours from start to finish. Your nurse will begin by inserting an IV into a vein in your arm or hand so your doctor can administer drugs and fluids during the test. You may be given some medication to help you relax, but you will probably not be under full anesthesia. After you have being cleaned and shaved, your doctor will numb your groin area.
The doctor will then insert several thin, flexible tubes — called catheters — into the groin, through the veins and into your heart, using a tiny camera for guidance. Once in position, the catheters will be able to capture and record the electrical activity of your heart.
During the test, your doctor will send electrical impulses to your heart through the catheters to evaluate how your heart responds.
Once the study is complete, your doctor will remove the catheters from your veins and the incision in your groin. Pressure will be applied to the incision, and you will be on bed rest for an hour or two before being released from the hospital. Your doctor will follow up with you on the results of the test.