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Electrophysiology Study

Electrophysiology Study & Catheter Ablation
What is an Electrophysiology Study?  
An Electrophysiology (EP) test or study looks at the conduction or electrical system of your heart by recording electrical activity from within the heart chambers. Thin wires are advanced into the heart through a small tube similar to cardiac catheterization to see if the irregular heartbeat can be reproduced. An EP study allows the doctor (Electrophysiologist) to study heart rhythm disturbances (arrhythmias) in a controlled setting.

What does the test show?
The EP study results can help your doctor determine if you have a heart rhythm disturbance or diagnose your abnormal heart rhythm. It can show how well medications work. This information helps determine the best treatment. The test also can be used to see how well your defibrillator (ICD) operates during your abnormal heart rhythm.

In order for your heart to beat, it needs an electrical impulse to generate a heart beat (More information about heart anatomy). Your heart's natural pacemaker (sinoatrial node) normally makes your heart beat 60-100 times per minute. This is called sinus rhythm. There are conditions when the electrical impulse becomes blocked in its route down the conduction system that cause an abnormal slowing of your rhythm. This is called Bradycardia and refers to a heart rate of less than 60 beats per minute.

In other conditions, an abnormal or "irritable pacemaker" outside the sinoatria node may cause a very fast heart rhythm to occur. This is called Tachycardia and refers to a heart rate of greater than 100 beats per minute. If the tachycardia comes from the upper chambers of the heart it is called Supraventricular Tachycardia (SVT). If it comes from the lower chambers it is Ventricular Tachycardia (VT).

Either too slow or too fast a heartbeat may cause the following symptoms:

  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Palpitations (a fluttering or pounding in the chest)
  • Fainting spells
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath

What is Catheter Ablation?
The EP study and ablation procedure are very similar. In fact, your doctor may decide to do both procedures, one after the other, while you are in the EP lab. This possibility will be discussed with you prior to the study.

Catheter ablation is a non-surgical technique that is used to destroy heart muscle cells responsible for an arrhythmia. The procedure can be quite lengthy. An ablation procedure can last for 2-4 hours. This procedure is the preferred treatment for many types of arrhythmias.

During catheter ablation, a doctor guides a catheter through a vein in your leg to your heart. The catheter is positioned in the area of your heart responsible for the arrhythmia. Electrodes at the tip of the catheter emit radio frequency (heat) energy through it that destroys the heart muscle cells responsible for the arrhythmia.

Where is the test performed?
In the Cardiac Catheterization lab

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