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Electrophysiology and devices

Papworth Hospital is recognised as one of the UK’s leading centres for cardiac Electrophysiology (EP). This is a rapidly expanding unit which offers catheter ablation of both standard and complex arrhythmias. The department has the full range of 3D mapping equipment and performs over 880 ablation procedures each year. Catheter ablation for atrial fibrillation (AF) has significantly evolved in recent times and a new initiative for ablation of ventricular tachycardia has begun.

The department is very active in clinical research (ablation of AF, treatment of life-threatening arrhythmias) whilst basic science research into the mechanisms of sudden cardiac death is undertaken at the University of Cambridge.

Papworth Hospital is one of the largest implanters of pacemakers in the UK. The whole range of cardiac devices are implanted including standard pacemakers, biventricular devices and implantable cardiac defibrillators (ICDs). The unit was the leading international centre in the implantation of the newly developed subcutaneous ICD. Research in the unit into improving clinical outcomes following biventricular pacemaker implantation has received national and international recognition. Outreach clinics provide follow-up for device monitoring and increasingly electronic remote follow-up by phone is used. This service is supported by dedicated highly trained specialist cardiac physiologists.

Purpose of the procedure

The Electrophysiology (EP) service at Papworth Hospital offers catheter ablation of both standard and complex arrhythmias.  Electrophysiology (EP) tests allow the heart’s electrical activity to be tested for fast or abnormal rhythms.

Effect on patients

The EP test and associated treatment tends to take between two and three hours to perform.  There is a small amount of risk associated with EP treatments and this will be discussed with you, along with associated benefits, prior to you giving consent to the procedure.

What happens during the procedure

Under local anaesthetic, catheters, which are thin, flexible wires, are inserted into a patient’s vein, more often via the groin, and then gently directed towards the heart where they emit high frequency electrical impulses to stimulate the heart’s abnormal electrical activity or arrhythmia and then destroy (ablate) the surrounding tissue that is causing it.

What to expect afterwards

When the EP study is completed, the catheters are removed.  Some patients might experience a slight amount of bleeding at this stage, however, this is controlled during the procedure by the Consultant electrophysiologist or nurse present.


The EP test is often performed as a day case.  However, some patients stay in overnight. All being well, you will be encouraged to resume normal activities within a matter of days.


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