An electrophysiology (EP) study is a test performed to assess your heart's
electrical system or activity and is used to diagnose abnormal heartbeats
or arrhythmia. The test is performed by inserting catheters and then wire
electrodes, which measure electrical activity, through blood vessels that
enter the heart.
When you arrive at the hospital, the final steps to prepare for the EP
- Emptying your bladder as completely as possible. A bedpan or urinal will
be available during the procedure. Depending on the length of your procedure,
a catheter may be inserted to drain your bladder of urine during the procedure.
- Inserting a small intravenous (IV) needle into a vein in your arm to administer
drugs, if necessary.
The EP study is performed in the electrophysiology laboratory of the hospital,
where you'll be placed on an X-ray table. A camera and television
screens, heart monitors and various instruments will be close by. Electrodes
will be placed on your chest and back to connect you to monitoring equipment.
A blood pressure cuff will be placed on your upper arm to monitor your
To prevent infection, a nurse will shave and cleanse the groin and possibly
neck area where the catheters will be inserted. The area will be cleansed
with an antiseptic, and sterile sheets will be draped over your body.
Find a comfortable position so you can remain still during the procedure.
Please don't touch the sterile areas on your neck and groin.
Depending on the type of study you undergo, you may be given medications
intraveniously to sedate you or make you sleepy. These medications help
reduce your anxiety and relieve your discomfort. Your doctor will let
you know if sedation medications are appropriate. In addition, a local
anesthetic will be administered to numb the area where the catheters are inserted.
One or more catheters will be inserted into a large vein in your groin
or neck, and guided to your heart. The positioning of catheters inside
your heart will be monitored on a screen. The incision site is less than
a quarter of an inch.
There are two parts to the EP study:
- Recording the heart's electrical signals to assess the electrical function
- Pacing the heart to bring on certain abnormal rhythms for observation under
Medications are sometimes used to stimulate your arrhythmia. The doctors
want to induce the abnormal rhythm causing your problem, so they can treat
the arrhythmia. If you have any uncomfortable symptoms — such as
chest pain, dizziness, shortness of breath, nausea and pain — tell
your nurse or doctor.
Your Role During the Study
Try to remain calm and relaxed. Don't move your arms or legs in the
sterile working area. If you feel any discomfort, let your doctors or
nurses know immediately, so they can help you get comfortable.
In the controlled environment of the EP laboratory, induced arrhythmias
are handled by well-trained personnel with state-of-the-art equipment.
This is an important tool that allows your doctor to gain information
about your arrhythmia that will help prevent future occurrences.
After the Procedure
Once the EP study is over:
- Catheters are removed and pressure is applied to the groin and neck areas
to prevent bleeding
- You'll lie still in bed for four to six hours to allow the catheter
sites to seal. Don't move or bend your leg
- You will be checked frequently. If you feel sudden pain or see bleeding
at the site, call the nurse immediately
- Your doctor may share some of the preliminary findings after the test
- If you feel well enough, you may be able to eat and drink
- Before leaving the hospital, your doctor or arrhythmia nurse coordinator
will provide instructions regarding medications and follow-up care and
any restrictions in your normal activities
After you're discharged from the hospital and return home, please follow
- Limit your activity for the first 24 hours. Don't strain or lift heavy
objects more than 10 pounds for the first week
- If traveling home takes several hours, stop every hour, stretch your legs
and walk a few minutes to prevent formation of blood clots in your legs
- If you notice new blood on the dressing, press firmly on the incision site
for about 20 minutes. If bleeding continues, call your doctor or go to
the nearest emergency room while still applying pressure
- Leave the dressing on until the day after the study. Your nurse will show
you how to remove it
- Don't worry if you see a bruise or small lump under the skin at the
insertion site. It will disappear within three to four weeks
When to Call Us
Call your doctor or arrhythmia nurse coordinator if:
- The site, where catheters were inserted, becomes painful or warm to the touch
- You have chest pain, palpitations, shortness of breath or lightheadedness