Electrophysiology for abnormal heartbeat
If you have irregular heartbeat, called arrhythmia, your doctor may recommend a procedure to stabilize the rhythm. These are called electrophysiology (EP) procedures. They may involve placing a device or using a process called ablation.
A pacemaker is a small device that helps the heart keep its rhythm. In this minimally invasive surgery, an incision is made near the collarbone, and a pocket is created from the tissue overlaying the muscle. The pacemaker is placed into the pocket, and tiny wires are inserted through a vein to the heart. The pacemaker sends a tiny electrical signal that causes the heart to beat at the rate needed for your activity at that moment.
Implantable cardiac defibrillator (ICD)
If you are diagnosed with a life-threatening arrhythmia, your doctor may recommend implanting an ICD. The device is similar to a large pacemaker, but can deliver stronger electrical signals to correct dangerous rhythm. It works by shocking the heart when necessary to restore a normal heartbeat.
Small areas of the heart sometimes beat out of rhythm with the rest of the heart. If an area of irregular heartbeat is found during an EP procedure, it can often be corrected by ablation, in which a special wire carries electrical currents to heat and destroy the cells causing the irregularity.
What to expect
EP procedures take place in a cardiac catheterization lab. During the procedure, you will lie on a special exam table with a large camera and several television monitors overhead.
Before the exam begins, a nurse will insert an IV into your arm for medications and fluids. You will be given a sedative to keep you comfortable, yet still awake. You may not remember the procedure.
Electrodes will be placed on your chest. The electrodes are painless and they will feel like sticky patches with lightweight wires attached. The electrodes are attached to an electrocardiogram (EKG) machine that will chart your heart's electrical activity.
The catheter will be inserted at your arm or your groin through a small incision after the site is numbed. A catheter, a flexible, narrow tube, is inserted through the incision and the procedure --- placement of a device or ablation --- is done through the catheter.
The procedure generally takes about 1 hour for a diagnostic EP study, but it will take longer if ablation is needed.
- You will be given specific wound-care instructions before you leave.
- You may experience some soreness at the catheter entry site as the numbness wears off.
- Do not drive for at least 12 hours after the procedure.
Your heart-care team may recommend a follow-up program to assist in your recovery.