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Electrophysiology for Arrhythmias

The cardiologists at the Heart Institute perform electrophysiological studies to diagnose and treat many types of arrhythmias (abnormal heart rhythms).

What are electrophysiology studies?
Electrophysiology studies test the electrical activity of your heart to find where the arrhythmia is coming from. These results can help you and your doctor decide whether you need medicine, a pacemaker, an implantable defibrillator, cardiac ablation, or surgery. 

What is an arrhythmia?

Electrical signals usually travel through the heart in a regular pattern. Heart attacks, aging and high blood pressure may cause scarring of the heart. This may cause the heart to beat in an irregular pattern. Certain congenital heart defects can also cause arrhythmias.

What is the purpose of an electrophysiology study?
Your doctor will use electrophysiology study to determine:

How does an electrophysiology study work?
During an electrophysiology study, doctors insert three to five special electrode catheters into your heart via a blood vessel to record the muscle’s electrical activity. 

What will happen during my procedure?
The Heart Institute performs all electrophysiology study procedures inside our state-of-the-art Cardiac Catheterization Labs. You’ll receive medicine to help you relax, but you will remain awake and be able to follow instructions during the test. Your nurse will clean and shave the part of your body where the catheter will be inserted (in your groin, arm, or neck), and a local anesthetic will be given to make the area numb.

Next, your doctor will insert a small straw-sized tube called a sheath into your artery or vein. The doctor will gently guide several specialized electrode catheters into your blood vessel through the sheath and advance them to your heart. A video screen will show the position of the catheters. You may feel some pressure in the area where the sheath was inserted, but you shouldn’t feel any pain.

Your doctor will send small electric pulses through the catheters to make your heart beat at different speeds. You may feel your heart beat stronger or faster. Electrical signals produced by your heart will be picked up by the special catheters and recorded. This is called cardiac mapping and allows the doctor to locate where arrhythmias are coming from.

The entire procedure lasts one to four hours.

Can I get treated for my arrhythmia during my procedure?
Possibly. If the type and location of the arrhythmia is identified and an appropriate therapy decided, cardiac ablation or insertion of a pacemaker or defibrillator may be performed during or immediately after your electrophysiology study. Otherwise, your doctor will discuss next steps with you.

Source: American Heart Association


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