What Is an Electrophysiology (EP) Study?
An electrophysiology study, or EP study, can be used to gather data about anything related to the electrical system of the heart. An EP specialist may order this type of study to learn more about diseases and arrhythmias in a patient’s heart and diagnose or treat the conditions.
During this minimally invasive study, the patient is usually under conscious sedation, meaning they are awake. IVs are placed in the femoral veins in the groin, then catheters are fed through the IVs into different areas of the heart. The electrophysiologist then stimulates those areas to study any abnormalities.
The procedure takes about an hour to complete. Afterward, the catheters are removed, the patient is cared for and monitored for a few hours, and they usually go home the same day.
An EP study may also be used alongside treatment in some cases. For example, an electrophysiologist may implant a pacemaker or defibrillator, or they can perform an ablation. This will depend on the goals or suspicions the electrophysiologist has going into the procedure.
The RUSH Approach to Electrophysiology Studies and Services
Your heart is a complex organ that is regulated by slight electrical impulses generated by the body. If you have an arrhythmia and your heart beats irregularly, too rapidly, or even too slowly, it can cause significant problems. One of the most common types of arrhythmias we treat is atrial fibrillation, a fast and irregular heart rhythm that can lead to blood clots, stroke and heart failure.
Our electrophysiology (EP) team has been providing Chicago and the Midwest with the most advanced diagnostics and treatments for arrhythmias or congestive heart failure for over three decades. Treatment options include ablation, pacemaker and His bundle procedures.
While some arrhythmias are treated with life-long medication, cardiac ablation can actually cure certain arrhythmias for good. Through thorough evaluation and testing, our EP specialists determine the best treatment for your specific health needs.
Electrophysiology Second Opinions at RUSH
RUSH offers many second opinions for patients who may need electrophysiology studies or who have been diagnosed with arrhythmia or heart disease. Generally, this involves a visit in a clinic. It’s best to bring in any previous test results and diagnoses, but our EP care team will work with patients to gather all needed information.
If you would like a second opinion before you have an EP study or undergo an electrophysiology procedure, call RUSH at (888) 352-7874.
RUSH Excellence in Electrophysiology Studies and Services
- An EP care team that works for you: At RUSH, we are committed to ensuring that you get the attention and resources you deserve. As a patient, you’ll have an EP care team that works with your physicians and lab staff to support you at every step.
- A patient navigator works with you to schedule appointments, send reminders and make sure you have a smooth transition through every part of your care.
- An EP registered nurse will educate you on any procedures you may have and follow up afterward. They’ll communicate test and lab results, manage your referrals and provide clinic support.
- A coordinator follows your care from your first day with us and helps collect your medical records, perform check-in and assist with appointment scheduling. They’ll ensure that your case is referred to the right specialists, that your entire care team is fully briefed on your case and that your treatment and follow-up appointments are handled correctly.
- Pinpointing the problem: Electrophysiologists at RUSH were among the first in Illinois to perform ablation using the HeartLight Endoscopic Ablation System, which allows them to see inside your beating heart while delivering laser energy during ablation. This enhanced visualization means surgeons can more accurately pinpoint and apply laser heat to the abnormal circuits causing the arrhythmia. Ultimately, this advantage may reduce the likelihood that you will need a repeat ablation procedure.
- Best of both worlds: You can often receive hybrid procedures that involve electrophysiologists and cardiac surgeons performing procedures together, in one setting. This allows your care team to work together to access even the traditionally hardest to reach areas of your heart — which was a challenge for treating these conditions in the past. However, cardiac surgeons can easily reach these areas because they can access crucial space behind the heart. These procedures are especially beneficial if you are older, with more advanced heart disease, as they allow surgeons to repair serious issues with less invasive techniques.
- Other groundbreaking treatments include:
- Leadless pacemakers (e.g., Micra): These are wireless and significantly smaller than standard pacemakers. This innovative technology has been associated with fewer complications than traditional pacemakers.
- His bundle pacing: This innovative approach involves stimulating the Bundle of His (or His bundle) instead of the right ventricle. EP specialists at RUSH are among the most experienced in the nation in the use of His bundle pacing and have a 95% success rate, which is higher than the success rate nationally.
- RUSH Arrhythmia Center: The expert team at the RUSH Arrhythmia Center at RUSH University Medical Center in Chicago specializes in caring for irregular heart rhythms. We offer a full spectrum of options for treating arrhythmias and access to the latest clinical trials and innovative technology that helps our patients and us better understand and reduces the risk of cardiac arrhythmias and its related symptoms.
- Atrial fibrillation clinic: RUSH offers an atrial fibrillation clinic where our team focuses exclusively on managing and treating patients to help modify risk factors and slow down progression of this chronic disease. Our dedicated team of experts will help to coordinate your care, tailoring a multidisciplinary treatment plan that specifically meets your needs.
- Support groups: Living with an arrhythmia may mean you have to make some changes in your lifestyle. To smooth your adjustment to life with an arrhythmia, RUSH Copley holds periodic support groups for patients and their families. These gatherings feature educational presentations and also provide an opportunity to share experiences with other people living with arrhythmias.
Electrophysiology (EP) Study FAQs
Yes, generally a patient is put under conscious sedation during an EP study, rather than general anesthesia. This means you will be awake but should not feel any pain during the procedure.
The procedure itself usually takes about an hour to complete. This may vary if you are also getting treatment, such as an implant or an ablation, at the same time. You will be monitored after the procedure for a few hours and likely go home the same day.
An EP study is a minimally invasive procedure with few risks. Fewer than one in 1,000 patients experience severe complications. If you receive treatment alongside the study, your risks may change, but your electrophysiologist will discuss this with you.
Usually, there is very little preparation needed for an EP study. Your physician may give you instructions about any daily medications or supplements you take, so make sure to provide them with a complete list before you schedule your EP study.
Patients usually only need to stay in the hospital or clinic for a few hours after an EP study for treatment and monitoring. They generally go home the same day as the procedure.
While an EP study is minimally invasive, physicians usually recommend taking things easy at home for the next two to three days. You should be able to perform all your normal activities within five to seven days.