Arrhythmia Diagnosis

At the Henry Ford Heart & Vascular Institute, our Electrophysiology Services team of heart rhythm experts performs more than 1,500 EP studies each year. We are among southeastern Michigan’s top experts at pinpointing the exact cause of your arrhythmia.

Electrophysiology study at Henry Ford Heart & Vascular Institute

Our heart rhythm experts (electrophysiologists) can identify the source of your arrhythmia in our electrophysiology labs, or EP labs. These specially designed labs feature equipment used to examine your heart’s electrical functions.

Our EP labs use the Carto® 3 System. This system uses the power of magnets and electrical currents to create exquisite three-dimensional images of your heart in real time. These images help our team identify the location of your arrhythmia and diagnose your condition with extreme precision. The system also uses catheters with special pressure tip sensors that pinpoint and remove unhealthy tissue.

With numerous southeastern Michigan clinic locations, we can get you in for an EP study often within the same week of your initial contact.

What is an electrophysiology study?

Using X-ray cameras, monitors and special devices, we perform comprehensive diagnostic testing. Also known as an EP study, these tests include:

  • Stimulating your heart with tiny electrical impulses
  • Recording and mapping your heart’s electrical signals
  • Measuring how fast electrical impulses are traveling within your heart
  • Identifying sites inside your heart that may be causing arrhythmias

What to expect: Electrophysiology study

A complete EP study can take up to two hours to complete. Here’s what to expect:

  • You lie down on a special table and we give you medicine to help you relax. You will likely sleep.
  • A large X-ray camera lies above you connected to nearby monitors.
  • An electrophysiologist uses a needle to insert a short hollow tube (sheath) into your vein, through which we insert one or more catheters (thin, spaghetti-like tubes).
    You may feel some pressure, but you won’t feel any pain.
  • Using X-ray guidance, our specialists advance the catheter to different positions in your heart.
  • A special device at the tip of the catheter senses your heart’s electrical impulses and displays them on the monitors. Our team also may stimulate certain areas of your heart and record what happens.
  • Your recovery continues in a different room by lying flat in bed for up to 4 hours.

Depending upon the results of the study, you can expect to go home later that day or the next day.

EP monitoring: Implantable loop recorder

An implantable loop recorder monitors your heart’s electrical activity as you go about your daily life. The constant monitoring enables your doctor to capture and identify abnormal heart rhythms as they occur. You can have an implantable loop recorder for up to two years.

Your doctor may recommend an implantable loop recorder if your arrhythmia symptoms occur regularly but not frequently enough to be detected by a 24-hour external monitor.

Here’s how an implantable loop recorder works:

  • During a surgical procedure, your doctor implants the device just under the skin of your chest to the left of your heart. There are no wires going into your heart.
  • Before insertion, your electrophysiologist will set heart rate ranges on the device. If your heart rate goes above or below these set ranges, the recorder will automatically start to monitor your heart’s electrical activity. You may not be aware that anything is happening.
  • Should you experience a noticeable change in your heart rhythm or symptoms like lightheadedness, fluttering heart or a skipped beat, you can initiate a recording by pushing a button on an activator supplied by your doctor.
  • During routine office visits, your doctor uses a special device to download information from your loop recorder and review the cardiac events.

Read more about our comprehensive arrhythmia treatments.

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