Electrophysiology testing for arrhythmias

Electrophysiology studies are used to test and treat abnormal heart rhythms – arrhythmias. By recording and studying the electrical activity of the heart, we are able to determine the underlying cause and test which treatment may be most effective.

Investigation details

What does an electrophysiology study involve?

A number of small thin tubes – called catheters – will be placed into a vein (usually via the groin) and guided to your heart via a fluoroscopy machine, which uses x-rays.

Your doctor will use a pacemaker to deliver electrical impulses to the heart via each of the catheters. The goal is to bring on an accelerated heart beat, and detect which area of the heart is causing abnormal heart rhythms. Medications are administered via your intravenous therapy to see which is most effective at treating the arrhythmia.

If needed, your consultant will carry out a catheter ablation to treat the problem, by destroying the parts of the heart that are causing it.

Recovery after an electrophysiology study

The test usually takes between two and four hours, but may be longer if a catheter ablation is required. You may feel dizzy during the procedure if you experience heart palpitations. You may also feel tired afterwards, but this should disappear within a couple of days.

Related video

The following video features Professor Sabine Ernst, consultant cardiologist and electrophysiologist.

Risks of electrophysiology testing for arrhythmias

As with any operation and procedure, there is a small degree of risk. Bleeding from where the catheters were placed may cause a haematoma (a collection of blood under the skin), but this should clear up within a couple of days.

There is also a small risk of damage to the heart’s electrical pathways, resulting in the need for a pacemaker to be fitted.

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