An Electrophysiology Study (EPS) allows a physician to check the heart's electrical system for rhythm problems. An EPS can help determine exactly what your rhythm problem is and what can be done to control it. Patients are usually given a mild sedative prior to the procedure. This will help you feel more relaxed and maybe a bit sleepy. This test is done in a sterile room with special cameras to take x-ray pictures of your heart. Most electrophysiology studies are done through a large vein in the groin, although they can be done from the wrist, arm, neck or chest. The nurse or technician will cleanse and shave the insertion site and cover you with sterile drapes. The doctor will then numb the area and insert a small hollow tube or sheath into the vein. The physician can then thread special electrode catheters (long, thin plastic tubes) to the heart. Electrical signals are sent through these catheters while the heart's rhythm is monitored. Medications may be given through an IV line to test how they affect the heart's rhythm. You may feel your heartbeat changing or your heart racing from time to time during the procedure. The procedure usually takes from 1 to 4 hours depending on what heart rhythms the physician observes. After the physician has completed the procedure, the sheaths are removed and a nurse or cath lab technician will hold pressure on the site to allow the small hole in the vein to close. A special dressing, pressure device or sandbag may be placed on the site at this time. You will be asked to lie flat and still for several hours after the procedure to allow the hole in the vein to seal. Most patients will go home several hours after the procedure, but because you have been given medication to relax you, please plan to have someone drive you home. After your procedure, it is normal for the puncture site to be a bit tender and bruised, and a small knot may even develop. If you notice redness, drainage, severe pain or swelling, talk to your doctor to see if further evaluation is indicated.
In most cases, you will be asked to come to the hospital in the morning, and depending on the results, you may be able to leave later that afternoon. You will want to bring a change of clothes and toiletries in case you need to stay in the hospital. Prior to the procedure, you will be told not to eat or drink anything after a certain time. Your doctor will inform you which of your medications you should take prior to the procedure, and which medications to avoid before your catheterization. Please inform your doctor if you have had a previous allergic reaction to x-ray contrast dye or shellfish. He or she will prescribe medications to reduce the risk of an allergic reaction.
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