Health Tests

Medical Content Created by the Faculty of the
Harvard Medical School

0SHARES

Risks

There are significant risks from this procedure. Most important, some abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmia) can be life-threatening, and your doctors will purposefully cause you to go through a few extra episodes of arrhythmia during the testing. If your doctors recommend electrophysiologic testing, they feel that this is a risk worth taking because it will allow them to take better care of you in the future. Because you are right in the lab and attached to a monitor while you undergo the rhythm changes, it is easy for them to treat you should your arrhythmia occur and cause you symptoms.

If ablation is included in your procedure, additional risks are present because ablation intentionally causes some scarring of a small part of the heart muscle. Complications are rare, but new rhythm changes can occur. A very rare complication occurs if the ablation instrument burns a hole through the heart muscle. This causes bleeding and may require immediate surgery. There is a small chance of stroke, a need for a pacemaker, or death from this procedure. Temporary inflammation of the sac that surrounds the heart (pericarditis) may cause chest pain. After some ablation procedures, slow emptying of the stomach may be caused by damage to nerves that are near the heart.

Risks associated with the catheter placement and use of dye are present for procedures with or without ablation. Among them is bleeding from the place where the catheter was inserted. If bleeding occurs but the blood collects under the skin, it can form a large painful bruise called a hematoma. A few people are allergic to the medicines used in the procedure, and this can cause a rash or other symptoms.

From Health A-Z, Harvard Health Publications. Copyright 2007 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved. Written permission is required to reproduce, in any manner, in whole or in part, the material contained herein. To make a reprint request, contact Harvard Health Publications. Used with permission of StayWell.

You can find more great health information on the Harvard Health Publications website.