Heart rhythmStudy

Using this guide What's covered

Here you’ll find the answers to many of your questions about heart rhythm studies (electrophysiology). Learn how it works, what it may cost, what your recovery may be like, and more.

For personal insights, see our patient experience videos in which HCF members talk frankly about their preparation, their procedure and their recovery.

Cost indicator

Discover the typical out-of-pocket costs HCF members can expect to pay for a heart rhythm study, and learn how your choice of doctor and hospital affect that cost. 


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The basics

A heart rhythm study, also known as an electrophysiology study, or EP study, is a diagnostic procedure to investigate possible problems with the electrical activity inside your heart, which can cause abnormal heart rhythms. It can reveal information that’s not obvious from other, less invasive, studies. It’s often combined with a treatment called radiofrequency ablation (also known as catheter ablation or cardiac ablation), which can correct some heart rhythm problems. 

What might be wrong with my heart’s rhythm?

Your heart contracts regularly to pump blood around your body and deliver oxygen to your cells. Electrical signals control the way your heart beats and also how quickly. This is called heart rhythm. The signals are automatically generated by groups of specialised cells inside your heart. They’re carried along nerves that act like electrical cables.

Sometimes the signals are interrupted or altered, in the same way an electric cable can be cut, or malfunction if exposed to water. This affects the way your heart beats and cause a number of problems. Most are harmless and very common but a few can be life-threatening. Heart rhythm alterations are called arrhythmias (literally means without rhythm). If you have symptoms of an arrhythmia, it’s important to see your doctor. 

The symptoms of a cardiac arrhythmia may include:

  • palpitations (where you can feel your heart beating or racing)
  • chest pain
  • dizziness and fainting
  • shortness of breath
  • difficulty exercising.

How's the study done?

A heart rhythm study involves putting electrically-sensitive catheters into a vein, usually in your groin, threading them through until they reach your heart, then stimulating your heart to trigger the arrhythmia.

During the procedure, you’re monitored closely and a doctor is always present. If you’re anxious, you can get a sedative. Sometimes people need a full anaesthetic.

You’ll lie on a bed in a room with X-ray capability to help the doctor position the catheter. The doctor will be in a sterile gown and there’ll be other medical staff around to make sure you’re as comfortable as possible. The procedure can take anywhere from 45 minutes to several hours, depending on how hard it is to find the problem. You may need drugs through a vein in your arm to bring on the arrythmia. The study does not hurt but you may occasionally feel palpitations.

Depending on the result, your doctor will recommend the best treatment for you.

Other treatments, like ablation, may be performed at the same time. Ablation uses either radio waves or cold temperatures to create a small burn to the area of the heart that’s causing the arrhythmia.

The details

considering the procedure

Alternatives to a heart rhythm study

Are there other options?
Learn more

Results vs risks of the procedure

The benefits and potential complications of heart rhythm studies.
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Choosing a specialist

How to find a cardiologist who specialises in heart rhythm studies.
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Questions for your doctor

What you should be asking before going ahead with a heart rhythm study.
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Preparing for your procedure

What you need to do before your procedure.
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Your anaesthetic options

About the anaesthetic and post-procedure pain relief.
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your procedure

Going to hospital

What to expect on the day of your procedure.
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Your procedure

What happens in the procedure room.
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After your procedure

Your hospital stay.
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Taking precautions and resuming activities.
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Patient experiences

HCF members who've had a heart rhythm study talk about their procedure and recovery. 

View videos

Give us feedback

Did you find this guide helpful? Let us know what you liked or what we can do to improve it. We'd love to hear from you.

To provide feedback, email us at wellbeing@hcf.com.au.

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Important information

Information is provided by HCF in good faith for the convenience of members. It is not an endorsement or recommendation of any form of treatment nor is it a substitute for medical advice, and you should rely on the advice of your treating doctors in relation to all matters concerning your health. Every effort has been taken to ensure the accuracy of the information, however HCF takes no responsibility for any injury, loss, damage or other consequences of the use of this information.