You will be taken to a special room, sometimes
called a "cath lab" or "EP lab." You will lie on a flat table under a large
electrodes will be attached to your legs and arms with a special paste or gel.
These are connected to an
EKG machine that keeps track of the electrical
activity of your heart during the test.
A device called a
pulse oximeter may be clipped to your finger. It
measures oxygen levels in your blood and monitors your pulse.
intravenous (IV) needle will be inserted into a vein in one of your
arms to give you fluids or medicine during the test. You will receive a
medicine to help you relax (sedative) through the IV line. You may
be awake during the test. But even if you are awake, the sedative may make you
so sleepy that you may not remember much afterward.
The area where
the doctor plans to insert a catheter will be shaved and cleaned. Sterile
towels will be draped over your arm or leg, except for the area over the
During the test
local anesthetic is injected into your skin at the
insertion site. This is usually in your groin. But sometimes it's in the crease
of the elbow or in the side of the neck.
When the area is numb, a doctor called a
cardiac electrophysiologist inserts the catheter through your skin and into the vein.
The doctor slowly pushes the catheter through
the vein toward your heart. Usually several catheters are used. The doctor moves the catheters into various places in the heart. An X-ray screen shows the doctor where to
move the catheters.
The catheters have small electrical conductors,
called electrodes, on their ends. The doctor can use the electrodes to do what is
called "pacing." This means sending electrical currents
through the catheters to try to re-create your heart rhythm problem. This can tell the
doctor what kind of problem you have and the best way to treat it. The
doctor may also use pacing to see how well medicines work to
control your problem.
The electrodes also send information to a
computer. The computer uses the information to draw pictures of your heart and
its rhythm problems. This is called "mapping," because
the pictures serve as maps that show the doctor exactly where the problem areas
A nurse or other assistant will help
you stay comfortable and resist the urge to move around. Be careful not to
touch the sheets or reach for your groin area, because you could contaminate
the sterile areas and increase the risk of infection.
may let you watch the video monitor so you can see the pictures of your heart.
The test takes 1 to 3
Catheter ablation usually takes 2 to 6 hours. In rare
cases, it can take longer.
After the test
It's important to prevent bleeding after the
catheter is pulled out. For example, if the catheter was in your groin, firm
pressure will be applied there for about 10 minutes to stop the bleeding. Then
a pressure dressing will be placed over the area.
You will be
taken to an observation room where nurses and others can watch your heart rate,
blood pressure, and temperature for a while and check for signs of bleeding.
They also watch the pulse, color, and temperature of the arm or leg in which
the catheter was placed.
If the catheter was in your leg, you may
have to lie in bed with your leg extended for as long as 4 to 12 hours. This
allows your blood vessels to heal.
If you have an EP study only, you will likely go home the same day. If you also have
ablation or other treatment, you may stay overnight in
the hospital. How long you stay in the hospital depends on the type of ablation
you have. Most people can go back to work and their normal routine in 1 or 2