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 - Northwestern Memorial Hospital - Chicago

Electrophysiology Study

An electrophysiology study looks at the heart's conduction or electrical system. It reveals the normal and abnormal electrical pathways of the heart. The test determines the cause of abnormal heart rhythms and assists the doctor in deciding what types of treatments are best for you.

The Conduction System

For the heart to pump oxygen-rich blood through the body it needs a "spark plug" or electrical impulse to start a heartbeat. The heart receives this electrical signal from the sinus node in the upper chamber or right atrium. This signal, or "spark," starts the electrical activity. The signal then travels through the upper chambers (atria) along a standard path to the lower chambers, or ventricles. This electrical circuit makes the heart contract and pump blood throughout the body. When the circuit follows this standard path it is called normal sinus rhythm.


Arrhythmia is the term used when the electrical circuit does not follow the normal conduction path. This may result in the heart beating too slowly, too quickly or in an abnormal way. An arrhythmia caused by a delay in the conduction system makes the heart beat too slowly and is called bradycardia. Arrhythmias that cause the heart to beat too rapidly are called tachycardias.

There are many different types of tachycardias: supraventricular tachycardia and ventricular tachycardia.

Supraventricular tachycardia is a fast heart rhythm that begins in the upper chambers of the heart. Ventricular tachycardia is a fast heart rhythm starting in the lower chambers, or ventricles. Whether they begin in the upper or lower chambers of the heart, fast or slow heart rhythms can be disabling or even life-threatening.


For more information regarding the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute, please call 1-866-662-8467, or request an appointment online.



Last UpdateFebruary 28, 2011