Electrophysiology or EP study
An electrophysiology or EP study is a definitive diagnostic test for cardiac arrythmias when other testing, such as Holter or Event Monitors, have come back inconclusive. An EP study is very similar to other catheter-based cardiac diagnostics and treatments. EP studies are performed in a specially-outfitted lab at the hospital and patients are sedated. The catheter is inserted through a small incision in the groin or arm and the catheter is threaded to the heart using fluoroscopy (continuous x-ray) or advanced ultrasound imaging technology. Once the catheter is in place, specialized mapping technology is used to get a complete, real-time view of the heart and its electrical signals. Doing so allows your electrophysiologist to visualize the structures of the heart and if any errant electrical signals are being produced therein.
If the EP study is initially inclusive, your EP can, in fact, induce an arrhythmia either by using the catheter or by introducing medication.
One of the great benefits of an EP study is that treatment, in certain cases, may be performed at the same time. For example, if a treatable arrhythmia is found during the EP study, a cardiac catheter ablation or cryoablation can be performed at the same time, rather than having to split the procedure.
Risks and considerations of an EP study
While an EP study is very safe, it still does come with some risks inherent to any catheter-based procedure. This could include a reaction to the anesthesia, pain, blood loss or infection at the site of catheter insertion, the risk of damage to the walls of blood vessels used to guide the catheter, and, very rarely, a cardiovascular event.
When do I need an EP study?
Ultimately, your best next step for an irregular heartbeat is to visit a qualified electrophysiologist as soon as possible. Your electrophysiologist will determine the best course of action based on your individual needs, up to, and including, getting an EP study to diagnose an arrhythmia. Your most important responsibility to both your heart and general health is to seek appropriate medical attention as soon as possible. For more information, please schedule a consultation with one of our electrophysiologists.