Electrophysiology study (EP study)
An electrophysiology study is a short procedure conducted in a hospital by a heart rhythm specialist (an electrophysiologist). It enables a specialist to analyse the heart’s electrical system and to determine the cause of abnormal heart rhythms. It will assist in making treatment decisions.
The benefit of this 45-60 minute procedure is that it can enable a doctor to detect any abnormalities in the electrical system of the heart and its cause. An electrophysiology study can also assist the patient in making decisions in relation to your future treatment.
An electrophysiology study is an invasive procedure, which is usually performed using local anaesthetic. A sedative to relax patients is sometimes used.
Small needle-punctures are made at the top of the legs that allow access to the heart via the veins. Fine wires which are electrical recording catheters are then passed through and positioned within the heart. Once the wires are in position, the doctor is able to record the electrical activity from specific areas of the heart.
Extra beats are also delivered using an external pacemaker, which may bring on palpitations. This is necessary to see where the heart rhythm is coming from and whether there are extra electrical connections in the heart. It is possible to put the heart back into normal rhythm within a few seconds.
If you need an EP study, you might be asked to stop taking some medications for up to two weeks beforehand. Your clinician will give specific advice. Blood tests and a physical examination are also routine in advance of the procedure.
Almost all patients go home on the day of the EP study. However, depending upon the findings, further treatment might be started while in the hospital. Most patients are able to carry on with normal activities the following day, but will advised avoid heavy lifting for about two weeks afterwards.
Following an EP study it is quite common for patients to be aware their heartbeat, even in normal rhythm. Some people are aware of extra or missed beats. These symptoms are normal and usually settle down with time.