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What happens before an electrophysiology (EP) study?

An electrophysiological study (EP study) is an invasive procedure that tests the heart's electrical system. Before the procedure:
  • Your physician will explain the procedure to you and offer you the opportunity to ask any questions that you might have about the procedure.
  • You will be asked to sign a consent form that gives your permission to do the test. Read the form carefully and ask questions if something is not clear.
  • Notify your physician if you are sensitive to or are allergic to any medications, iodine, latex, tape, or anesthetic agents (local and general).
  • You will need to fast for a certain period of time prior to the procedure. Your physician will notify you how long to fast, usually overnight.
  • If you are pregnant or suspect that you may be pregnant, you should notify your physician.
  • Notify your physician if you have any body piercing on your chest and/or abdomen.
  • Notify your physician of all medications (prescription and over-the-counter) and herbal supplements that you are taking.
  • Notify your physician if you have heart valve disease, as you may need to receive an antibiotic prior to the procedure.
  • Notify your physician if you have a history of bleeding disorders or if you are taking any anticoagulant (blood-thinning) medications, aspirin, or other medications that affect blood clotting. It may be necessary for you to stop some of these medications prior to the procedure.
  • Your physician may request a blood test prior to the procedure to determine how long it takes your blood to clot. Other blood tests may be done as well.
  • Notify your physician if you have a pacemaker.
  • If a sedative is given before the procedure, you may need someone to drive you home afterwards.
  • The area around the catheter insertion (groin area) may be shaved.
  • Based upon your medical condition, your physician may request other specific preparation.
Here’s what happens before the EP procedure:
  • You will fill out some paperwork, including a consent form.
  • You will change into a hospital gown, and a nurse may draw blood for lab work.
  • An IV (intravenous) line may be placed in your arm or hand to give you fluids. You may also be given medicine by mouth or through a mask before the IV is placed.
  • You will be moved to the EP lab. The room may feel cool, but you will be covered with sterile draping and a blanket for the procedure.
Atul Bhatia, MD
Clinical Cardiac Electrophysiology
You will arrive two hours before your electrophysiology (EP) study. You may have blood tests, X-rays and an electrocardiogram (ECG). You will be asked to not eat or drink anything for six to eight hours before the test. You may take sips of water with your medications. If you are taking heart rhythm medications (antiarrhythmics), you may be instructed to stop them about 48 to 72 hours before the test. Tell the nurse right away if you feel palpitations, dizziness, shortness of breath, pain or any symptoms similar to what you have had outside the hospital. If there is a possibility that you are pregnant, be sure to let the doctor know. An intravenous (IV) line will be started in a vein in your arm. You’ll be taken to the EP lab about 30 minutes before your scheduled test time.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.