Your heart is a tireless pump, contracting regularly and continuously. The pumping action is caused by a flow of electricity through the heart, in a regulated rhythm. Some people may have an abnormal electrical signal which can cause an abnormal heart rhythm (arrhythmia). This is often felt as palpitations or an irregular heartbeat and may cause dizziness or fainting. An Electrophysiology Study (EP Study) is a test we use to study the electrical functioning of your heart.
At the Mater Private we treat more Electrophysiology and Arrhythmia patients than any other centre in Ireland. Patients are cared for in a dedicated Electrophysiology treatment suite equipped for state-of-the-art diagnostic, ablation and device implantation procedures - available 24 hours a day.
An EP Study is used to help identify where abnormal electrical signals are originating from. Following on from this, a procedure known as Catheter Ablation can be used to prevents abnormal electrical signals from traveling through your heart and so, stop the arrhythmia.
The procedure takes approximately 1–2 hours to perform and you will receive some sedation to help you relax. In general, you do not need to be put asleep for this procedure.
During the EP study
A fine catheter is used in this procedure to access the heart through an artery. Often the top of the leg/groin area is used and occasionally the neck area may be used. A local anaesthetic is applied and once the area is numb, an incision is made through which a needle is inserted into the artery. A catheter (a plastic coated wire) is passed over this needle and used to access the heart.
The catheters are capable of sensing the heart’s electrical signals. During the study your doctor may “bring on” an abnormal fast heart rhythm (tachycardia). This is known as pacing. As a result you may feel the symptoms you have been complaining about. The doctor is in control of this and is using it as part of your test.
Abnormal heart rhythm
The results of your EP Study may show that you have an area within the heart where the abnormal electrical beats are originating from. In many cases it is possible to move on to a procedure called a Catheter Ablation which can interrupt this abnormal rhythm. Your Consultant Cardiologist will discuss the results of the EP Study with you and the possibility of proceeding with further tests or catheter ablation, if appropriate.
Catheter Ablation is the use of 'energy' to create a scar on or destroy the tissue where the abnormal heart rhythm triggers. The ablation prevents abnormal electrical signals from traveling through your heart and so, stops the arrhythmia.
Following the procedure:
- Strict bed rest is required usually for 4–6 hours.
- You will be asked to limit movement to reduce the risk of bleeding.
- The nurse will inspect the puncture site to ensure there is no bleeding.
- You may go home after 4 to 6 hours or as directed by the Consultant.
If you also had Catheter ablation:
- The Catheter Ablation will add an additional 2–3 hours to your procedure.
- Patients undergoing ablation generally stay in hospital overnight after the procedure during which time your heart rhythm will be monitored.