By Mark Nosacka, CEO Good Samaritan Medical Center.
The heart is an amazing muscle. It pumps about 2,000 gallons of blood through the body and beats about 100,000 times a day. The heart is located in the center of the chest, but because the bottom of the heart tips to the left, the heartbeat is felt predominantly on the left side. Normally, electricity flows through the heart and produces the familiar thumping pattern heard through a stethoscope.
Image: Mark Nosacka, CEO Good Samaritan Medical Center.
But if an irregular heartbeat, or arrhythmia, is detected, an electrophysiology study may be recommended to determine the cause of the abnormal rhythm.
Electrophysiology tests are commonly performed to identify where an arrhythmia is in the heart and find the best course of treatment. Information generated during these tests can also predict a future cardiac event, evaluate the effectiveness of certain medications to control the irregular heartbeat, and/or decide if an implantable defibrillator, pacemaker or catheter ablation procedure is necessary.
Good Samaritan Medical Center cares for patients with known or suspected cardiovascular diseases through its Cardiac and Vascular Institute. The institute offers electrophysiology services through its new EP lab, which includes highly advanced equipment designed to diagnose and treat abnormal heart rhythms.
If you are scheduled to undergo an electrophysiology test, you should not eat or drink anything after midnight the night before the procedure. Check with your doctor about continuing any medications. If you have diabetes, talk to your doctor about food and insulin intake, which can affect blood sugar levels.
After you arrive at the hospital and change into a gown, a nurse will start you on an IV. You will then receive a sedative to make you feel drowsy. When you are in the cardiac catheterization laboratory, where the procedure will take place, electrodes will be placed on your chest. The doctor will numb an area in your groin is numbed and make an incision where a special catheter is inserted into a vein, which will then be threaded to your heart using fluoroscopy. This will provide continuous, real-time X-ray images of the moving heart.
The catheter detects electrical activity in the heart, and doctors can administer small electrical impulses to make the heart beat at different speeds. The heart’s electrical signals normally move from the two top chambers of the heart, called the atria, through the atrioventricular node and to the ventricles, or lower chambers, of the heart. During the procedure, you may feel some mild discomfort but usually no pain. Because the test involves provoking irregular heartbeats, it is performed in a hospital by specially trained staff that includes cardiologists, technicians and nurses.
An electrophysiology test typically lasts between two and four hours but may take longer if additional treatments are performed at the same time.
Abnormal results from an electrophysiology test can identify numerous conditions, such as atrial fibrillation (abnormal electrical discharges in the heart that cause an irregular heartbeat), ventricular tachycardia (rapid heartbeats that start in the ventricles), and Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome (a condition in which there is an extra electrical pathway in the heart).
After the procedure is completed, the catheter is removed and firm pressure is applied to the incision site to prevent bleeding. You will need to rest for several hours, after which time you will be allowed to go home.
The Cardiac & Vascular Institute at Good Samaritan Medical Center has a team of highly skilled cardiologists, heart surgeons and other health care professionals who care for patients with known or suspected coronary heart disease. Good Samaritan is also an accredited Chest Pain Center with Percutaneous Coronary Intervention (PCI) through the Society of Cardiovascular Patient Care. Hospitals that have received SCPC accreditation provide more efficient and effective evaluation, as well as appropriate and rapid treatment of patients with chest pain and other heart attack symptoms.
Anyone interested in learning more about their heart and other related conditions can attend our free heart health screening events that occur the second Thursday of every month. Register online at www.goodsamaritanmc.com/contact-us/classes-events.