Electrophysiology Study / Ablation


What is an Electrophysiology Study?

An Electrophysiology Study (EP) is a procedure carried out by a heart rhythm specialist in hospital. An EP study is an investigation used to record and analyse the function of the heart’s electrical system and diagnose abnormal heart rhythms. Sometimes after certain rhythms are diagnosed they can be treated at the same time. This is called an Ablation. Ablation is performed using specialised ‘catheters’ that burn abnormal electrical pathways. The resulting scar tissue reduces the likelihood of abnormal heart rhythms reoccuring.

Our department currently has one purpose-built Catheterisation Lab specifically designed for this type of complex procedure, however work will begin this year on the refurbishment of a second brand-new Lab for EP procedures.

What is Cryo-Ablation?

Cryo-Ablation is similar to standard ablation, using many of the techniques described above, along with specially designed catheters, operators use equipment to freeze specific surfaces within the heart. This method of causing scar tissue creates a barrier, preventing abnormal electrical impulses from being conducted.

Will I be awake for my procedure?

For the majority of all ablations (both standard and Cryo-Ablation), patients are given medicines to help them to relax. We use a process known as conscious sedation to ensure your comfort and well-being whilst monitoring you closely. Due to this level of sedation you may naturally sleep during the procedure, however staff will always be on hand to help you should the need arise. In addition to this, staff will provide pain-relief as and when it is necessary, as patients may experience some discomfort during ablation.

In some cases a higher level of sedation may be required, such as complex cases or those that are expected to be more uncomfortable to the patient. These procedures may require a general anaesthetic; the specialist nursing team or your consultant will discuss this with you.

Why do I need an EP study?

EP studies are performed to help your doctor determine the cause of your abnormal heart rhythm and assist your doctor in making decisions about the best treatment plan for you.

What does the procedure involve?

A thin flexible tube (sheath) is inserted into a vein in your right groin. Catheters with electrodes on the end are then inserted through the groin and up into your heart. Using the electrodes and/or medication the heart is stimulated to reproduce your abnormal heart rhythm. You will need to lie flat on the X-ray table whilst the test takes place. The procedure usually takes 1 – 4 hours and rarely requires an overnight stay. Recovery time varies, but normally takes a few hours. For a period of recovery you will be limited to bed-rest.

Arrhythmia Specialist Nurse

There is a group of nurses who help to run the EP service. These specialist nurses will see you in hospital and go through the procedure with you as well as the doctor. The nursing team will serve as a point of contact for any queries or problems. A nurse will also follow you up at home, often via phone.

For more information from The British Heart Foundation on E.P studies click here. For information on Ablation click here.