Electrophysiology Study at Swedish Medical Center

Your Swedish Medical Center Heart Center doctor may have recommended that you undergo an electrophysiology study. This is a procedure where the electrical system of your heart is examined.

Arrhythmias, which are abnormal rhythms, slow or fast, can be further evaluated to aid in your treatment. You may have had a loss of consciousness (syncope) or have palpitations, which require further investigation. There may be concern that you are susceptible to a fatal rhythm such as ventricular tachycardia and this test may help in determining if you are at risk for this rhythm.

EP Study: An electrophysiology study is performed by placing long electrical wires through catheters into your heart. The procedure may take up to three hours. There are several members of the electrophysiology lab team you will meet including physicians, nurses, and technician. They are all important in performing the procedure as well as keeping you safe and comfortable.

What to Expect during an EP Study

You will be brought to the electrophysiology laboratory, a sterile room, where you will be placed on a table with an X-ray machine. An intravenous line will be placed in your arm. Through this intravenous, you will be given sedative medicine throughout the study to make you comfortable. Both legs where the femoral vein and artery runs will be cleansed. Electrodes and large patches will be placed on your chest to monitor your hearts rhythm. The femoral area on your leg will be made numb using lidocaine, similar to the medicine the dentist uses. An electrophysiology study is not painful. There may be some discomfort at the femoral site where the catheters are inserted, however you will not feel the catheters in your body. Let the doctor know if you are experiencing discomfort, chest pain, shortness of breath, or palpitations.

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Through these veins and possibly arteries in your leg, catheters are placed into the heart using X-ray to watch its movement. Through these catheters, baseline measurements of your electrical system are made. In addition, electrical impulses are sent to stimulate your heart to evaluate your hearts response, as well as to try and reproduce your arrhythmias.

You may have a rapid dangerous heart rhythm, which may be reproduced such as ventricular tachycardia or ventricular fibrillation. You may pass out. If you this occurs, the doctor will try to pace your heart out of the rhythm. Sometimes, you may need to be cardioverted (shocked) out of the rhythm.

After the procedure is completed, the catheters are removed and pressure will be held until the bleeding stops. You will be asked to lie flat in the bed without moving your legs for up to four hours. The doctor will talk with you and your family regarding the results of the study.

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An electrophysiology study is overall a safe procedure. There are risks involved in having this study performed like any other invasive procedure. The risks include damage and bleeding of the vessels where the catheters are inserted and puncturing the heart wall with the catheters causing bleeding around the heart sac, and infections. Blood clots and strokes have been reported, and deaths are rare.