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Electrophysiology

What is electrophysiology?

An electrophysiology study uses cardiac catheters and computers to create electrocardiogram (EKG) tracings and electrical measurements from inside your heart.

During this invasive test, your cardiologist may safely reproduce your abnormal heart rhythm, then give you medications to see which one best controls your heart’s rhythm.

Your doctor uses the EP study to:

  • Find out what is causing your abnormal heart rhythm (also called arrhythmia or dysrhythmia)
  • Determine where in your heart the abnormal heart rhythm begins
  • Decide which treatment is best for your abnormal heart rhythm

Assessing critical needs

Electrical impulses trigger every beat of your heart. This impulse normally starts in a group of cells within your heart's right atrium (upper chamber), then travels through the rest of your heart in an organized fashion. A disruption anywhere along this electrical pathway causes an arrhythmia, or heart rhythm problem.

An electrophysiology (EP) study finds out what causes a heart rhythm problem. A doctor usually orders this test when other types of testing have not revealed the cause of your symptoms.

It can also be performed to find out if your heart has the potential to develop risky or life-threatening heart rhythm problems. Although it is invasive and involves trying to trigger arrhythmias, the EP study provides information that makes it possible to:

  • Diagnose the source of arrhythmia symptoms
  • Predict the risk of a future cardiac event, such as sudden cardiac death
  • Assess the need for an implantable device (a pacemaker or a defibrillator) or treatment procedure (catheter ablation)
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of certain medications in controlling heart rhythm disorders

How it's done

Lee Health cardiologists perform the EP study at one of our two electrophysiology labs. Typically, a patient comes to the electrophysiology lab the day of the procedure. A nurse reviews the procedure with you and answers your questions.

We do our best to keep you comfortable as possible for an EP study. We perform this procedure with the help of sedation (either conscious, or short-acting, sedation administered through an IV, or less commonly, with general anesthesia). Some patients are awake enough to answer questions and watch the procedure on the monitors, but others may fall asleep. A local anesthetic to your groin numbs the area, and then we insert two or three catheters into the vein and then onto the heart.

Fluoroscopy (similar to x-ray) guides the physician in advancing the catheters and provides real-time pictures of the catheters and heart. Once the catheters are in the heart, electrodes at the tips gather data and make numerous electrical measurements.

An EP study typically takes about a half hour to an hour. Depending on the results of the EP study, you may be able to go home the same day.

Know the risks

An electrophysiology study is a minimally invasive procedure. Even so, there are several risks that patients should know about:

  • Bleeding from the incision site
  • Damage to blood vessels by catheter
  • Blood clots
  • Worsened arrhythmia symptoms
  • Injury to the heart

Technology and expertise at Lee Health

Lee Health offers the most advanced and effective heart rhythm treatments to our patients. We have two fully equipped electrophysiology labs and one dedicated implant room. They are staffed by nurses and technicians who work exclusively on heart rhythm disorders.

Who to contact

For questions related to cardiovascular care or services, email us at hearts@leehealth.org.