Electricity normally flows throughout the heart in a regular, measured pattern. This electrical system produces heart muscle contractions. Any irregularity along the electrical pathway causes an arrhythmia, or heart rhythm disturbance. Electrophysiology studies help to accurately diagnose the exact cause of an arrhythmia which helps cardiologists identify the best possible treatment for a patient.
During an EP study, Heart Center of the Rockies cardiac electrophysiologists Dr. Robert Kiser and Dr. Timothy Johnson purposely produce irregular heart rhythms to collect data about the flow of electricity during actual events. The detailed electrical flow information provides valuable diagnostic and ultimately, treatment information. EP studies make it possible to:
- Diagnose the source of arrhythmia symptoms.
- Evaluate the effectiveness of certain medications in controlling the heart rhythm disorder.
- Predict the risk of a future cardiac event, such as sudden cardiac death.
- Assess the need for an implantable device (a pacemaker or implantable cardioverter device) or treatment procedure (radio frequency catheter ablation).
The study is performed after giving local anesthesia and conscious sedation to keep the patient as comfortable as possible. The procedure involves inserting a catheter into a blood vessel, often through the groin or neck, and winding the catheter wire up into the heart. Electrodes at the tip of the catheter gather data while taking various electrical measurements. These data pinpoint the location of the problem electrical site.
Based on this data and information collected, the cardiac electrophysiologists may decide to place an implantable cardioverter device (ICD) or a pacemaker or will perform radiofrequency ablation.
Patients often report discomfort during this procedure but rarely pain. The procedure usually takes about two hours. He or she will be asked to remain still for four to six hours afterward, allowing time for the incision to heal.