Key Points about Cardiac Electrophysiology (EPS) Studies
- A cardiac electrophysiology study – or EPS – checks how well your heart’s electrical system is working. An EPS can also be used to diagnose arrhythmia (abnormal heart rhythm).
- Your doctor may recommend a cardiac EPS study if they think you may have an arrhythmia
- You will likely undergo a cardiac EPS in a hospital outpatient area.
- A cardiac EPS study can last anywhere from one hour to several hours.
If you have signs of arrhythmia, your doctor may use a cardiac EPS to make a diagnosis. Your cardiologist may also recommend cardiac EPS for one or more of the following:
- Check how well your heart’s electrical system is working
- Pinpoint the origin or location of an already diagnosed arrhythmia
- Determine the next treatment steps for arrhythmia
- Check your risks for future heart problems, such as sudden cardiac death
- Check how well a medicine is working to control arrhythmia
- Determine if you need a pacemaker or implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD)
Candidates for a cardiac EPS study
Your doctor may recommend a cardiac EPS study if he or she:
- Needs to check if your arrhythmia medication is working properly
- Thinks you may have an arrhythmia
- Thinks you may need a pacemaker or ICD to control your heart rate
- Wants to determine your risk for future heart problems
Preparing for a cardiac EPS study
You will likely undergo a cardiac EPS in a hospital outpatient area. You will need to avoid eating or drinking for 8 hours before the test. Your doctor will let you know if you need to stop taking any of your usual medications before undergoing cardiac EPS.
Before starting the procedure, you will likely receive medication to help you relax. However, you will be awake for the test. A member of your cardiology team will clean and/or shave the area where the EPS electrodes will enter your body.
Expectations during a cardiac EPS study
Your cardiologist then makes a few incisions (cuts) and inserts catheters (thin, hollow tubes) into the incisions and threads them to your heart. Your cardiologist then threads wires or electrodes through the catheters and to your heart. Your cardiologist uses X-ray imaging to see inside your body and place the electrodes in the correct places. The electrodes pick up your heart’s electrical signals and help your cardiologist determine if your heart functions correctly.
Recovery after a cardiac EPS study
After your cardiologist has completed the EPS, they will remove the electrodes and catheters and close the incisions with bandages. Depending on what your cardiologist hopes to accomplish with the procedure and other factors, the cardiac EPS study will last anywhere from one hour to several hours. After the EPS, you will spend time in a recovery area while a team closely monitors you.
When to seek care
If you think you may need to undergo this test, start by voicing your concerns and symptoms to your primary care provider. From there, your doctor may suggest seeing a cardiologist for more specialized treatment.