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.
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.
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