Diagnostic Electrophysiology Studies

The electrophysiology (EP) study is a test used to evaluate heart rhythms from inside your heart.  The EP study can do the following:

  • It tests your heart to see if you have a problem in the heart's electrical system.
  • If you do have an electrical problem, it helps you doctor choose the best treatment.

Arrhythmias may be difficult to diagnose.  Symptoms may come and go. There may be no symptoms at all. Or, there may be symptoms that seem unrelated to the heart. An EP study focuses on problems of the electrical system of the heart that may cause symptoms.

The EP study is performed by a cardiac specialist called an Electrophysiologist or EP.

What to Expect:  

  1. A team of specially trained EP nurses and technicians work with your EP doctor to provide care.  On the day of the study you will be brought to the electrophysiology laboratory, a special room in the cath lab containing special testing equipment.   
  2. EP physician will use several thin tubes (catheters) which are inserted into a vein, usually in your groin area.   An X-ray machine (fluoroscope) provides images of your heart during the procedure to help the EP physician accurately position each catheter.
  3. During the EP study, the physician will use the catheters to create an electrical "map" of the heart.  This is done by recording the electrical activity of the heart when the catheters are inside the heart.
  4. If the EP study finds an arrhythmia, you may experience symptoms during this time, but otherwise you should be resting comfortably.
  5. Remember that your doctor is trying to determine if a heart rhythm caused your symptoms.  If the cause was arrhythmia, and he/she creates it, you may experience some of the same symptoms that you have felt before.  These could include palpitations, light-headedness or chest pain.

What happens after the study?

Your EP doctor will discuss the results of the EP study with you and your family and he/she may wish to monitor your progress on medication, or conduct additional tests.

If the EP study produced an arrhythmia that caused the same symptoms you had before the study, the doctor will talk to you about treatment options, including medicine, cardiac ablation or implanted device therapies.

Recovery from an EP study is usually quick.  Many people are able to resume most of their normal activities 24 hours after the procedure.  As the insertion site heals, some people experience bruising and feel a small, hard lump.  This is normal and will go away in a few days.

If any of the following are experienced, it is very important to call our office or go to the emergency room.

  • Bleeding at the insertion site
  • Increased pain
  • Any complaint of chest pain (call 9-1-1)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Feeling cold, have swelling, or numbness on the arm or leg of the insertion site
  • The bruising or lump at the insertion site gets larger
  • Fever over 100o F
  • Return of arrhythmia symptoms

Be sure to talk with your doctor so that you thoroughly understand all of the risks and benefits associated with a diagnostic electrophysiology study.