What is an Electrophysiology Test? | MedStar Health

Advanced testing to evaluate an abnormal heartbeat

If your heart is beating abnormally (known as an arrhythmia, electrophysiology testing can help us find out why. It also helps map the electrical system of the heart, which tells us which part of the heart the abnormal heartbeats are coming from.

The physicians in our cardiac electrophysiology program are highly trained advanced subspecialists who diagnose and manage even the most complex arrhythmias.

This test may be done if the results of other tests, such as ECG, stress test or angiogram are unclear. The results of electrophysiology testing can help you and your doctor recommend the appropriate treatment, such as:

What to expect from electrophysiology testing

Electrophysiology testing uses cardiac catheters to evaluate the electrical activity of your heart. Ask your doctor if you should take your normal medications the day of the procedure. You will be asked to not eat or drink anything for a certain amount of time before testing.

You will be awake during the test, but an IV may be inserted into your arm or hand to deliver medication to help you relax. A shot will be given to numb the groin area. The doctor will insert catheters (thin, flexible tubes) into a vein and use fluoroscopy to help guide them to your heart. The doctor then will send small electrical impulses to certain areas of the heart to increase your heart rate. You may feel your heart begin to beat faster or slower. Tell your doctor about any symptoms you experience, such as discomfort, pain or shortness of breath.

If an arrhythmia occurs, you may be given medication or a shock to the heart to stop it. If a certain area of tissue is causing the problem, your doctor may use heat (radiofrequency ablation) or cold (cryoablation) to destroy the abnormal tissue.

Electrophysiology testing takes two to four hours, and you’ll need to stay in bed for one to two hours afterward. Your doctor will determine how quickly you can go home based on the results of the test.

Treatments

Cardiac ablation

Cardiac ablation uses heat or cold to destroy heart tissue causing abnormal heart rhythms known as arrhythmias.

Pacemaker

A pacemaker is a device that helps control various types of heart rhythm disorders.

Our providers

Cardiologist taking EKG test of senior patient

Expert cardiology care

Getting the care you need starts with seeing one of our cardiologists.

Additional information

Electrophysiology program

We are leaders in developing and using the latest procedures and technologies to treat heart rhythm disorders, and our cardiac electrophysiology laboratory is one of the most sophisticated in North America.

Read our Cardiovascular Performance & Outcomes Booklet

Ask MHVI

Have questions for our heart and vascular program? Email us at AskMHVI@medstar.net.