An electrophysiological study (EP study) is a test used to evaluate your heart's electrical system and to evaluate for abnormal heart rhythms.
Natural electrical impulses coordinate contractions of the different parts of the heart. This helps keep blood flowing the way it should. This movement of the heart creates the heartbeat, or heart rhythm.
During an EP study, your doctor inserts small, thin wire electrodes into a vein in the groin (or neck, in some cases). He or she will then thread the wire electrodes through the vein and into the heart, using a special type of X-ray “movie,” called fluoroscopy. Once in the heart, the electrodes measures the heart’s electrical signals. Electrical signals are also sent through the electrodes to stimulate the heart tissue to try to cause the abnormal heart rhythm so that it can be evaluated and its cause can be found, or to help evaluate how well a drug is working.
During the EP study, specialists in heart rhythms or an electrophysiology specialist doctors may also map the spread of the heart’s electrical impulses during each beat. This may be done to help locate the source of an abnormal heartbeat.
Your healthcare provider may advise an electrophysiological study (EP study) for the following reasons:
There may be other reasons for your healthcare provider to recommend an EP study.
Possible risks of an electrophysiological study (EP study) include:
You may want to ask your healthcare provider about the amount of radiation used during fluoroscopy and the risks related to your situation. It is a good idea to keep a record of your radiation exposure, such as previous scans and other types of X-rays, so that you can inform your healthcare providers. Risks associated with radiation exposure may be related to the cumulative number of X-rays and treatments over time.
For some people, having to lie still on the procedure table for the length of the study may be uncomfortable or painful.
There may be other risks depending on your specific medical condition. Be sure to discuss any concerns with your healthcare provider before the test.
You may have an electrophysiological study (EP study) on an outpatient basis or as part of your stay in a hospital. Testing may vary depending on your condition and your healthcare provider’s practices.
Generally, an EP study follows this process:
The results of the study may also help your healthcare providers decide whether more treatment is needed and which treatment would be best. You may need a pacemaker or implantable defibrillator, receive or change medicines, undergo an ablation procedure, or receive other treatments.
After the test, you may be taken to the recovery room for observation or returned to your hospital room. You will stay flat in bed for several hours after the test. A nurse will monitor your vital signs, the insertion site, and circulation or sensation in the affected leg or arm.
Let your nurse know right away if you feel any chest pain or tightness, or any other pain, as well as any feelings of warmth, bleeding, or pain at the insertion site.
Bed rest may vary from 2 to 6 hours depending on your specific condition.
In some cases, the sheath or introducer may be left in the insertion site. If so, you will be on bed rest until the sheath is removed. After the sheath is removed, you may be given a light meal.
After the specified period of bed rest, you may get out of bed. The nurse will help you the first time you get up, and may check your blood pressure while you are lying in bed, sitting, and standing. You should move slowly when getting up from the bed to avoid any dizziness from the long period of bed rest.
You may be given pain medicine for pain or discomfort related to the insertion site or having to lie flat and still for a prolonged period.
You may go back to your usual diet after the test, unless your healthcare provider tells you otherwise.
When you have recovered, you may be discharged to your home unless your doctor decides otherwise. If this test was done on an outpatient basis, you must have another person drive you home.
Once at home, check the insertion site for bleeding, unusual pain, swelling, and abnormal discoloration or temperature change. A small bruise is normal. If you notice a constant or large amount of blood at the site that can’t be contained with a small dressing and stopped by putting pressure over the area, contact your doctor right away.
It will be important to keep the insertion site clean and dry. Your doctor will give you specific bathing instructions.
You may be advised not to participate in any strenuous activities for a few days after the test. Your doctor will tell you when you can return to work and go back to your normal activities.
Contact your healthcare provider if you have any of the following:
Your healthcare provider may give you other instructions after the test, depending on your situation.
Before you agree to the test or the procedure make sure you know: