Tilt Table Test

What you need to know about the Tilt Table Test

What is a tilt table test?

The tilt table test (also called a passive head-up tilt test or head upright tilt test) records your blood pressure and heart rate on a minute-by-minute basis while the table is tilted in a head-up position at different levels.

Why is this test recommended?

The results of this test will help your doctor determine what may be causing your symptoms of light- headedness or fainting spells (also called syncope).

The tilt table test results will help determine if other tests may be needed to help diagnose your condition. The test results also may be used to evaluate heart rhythm, blood pressure and sometimes other measurements with changes in position.

Lastly, the test results will help your doctor plan a course of treatment.

What are the risks of the test?

As with any procedure, there are risks of the tilt test. Your health care provider will discuss the risks and benefits of the procedure with you before the test is ordered.

What is syncope?

Syncope (pronounced “sin ko pea”) is the brief loss of consciousness and posture caused by a temporary decrease in blood flow to the brain. Syncope may be associated with a sudden fall in blood pressure, a decrease in heart rate or changes in blood volume or distribution. The person usually regains consciousness and becomes alert right away, but may experience a brief period of confusion.

Syncope is often the result of an underlying medical condition that could be related to your heart, nervous system or blood flow to the brain.

If necessary, the test will be modified to minimize any potential risks.

One risk of the procedure during IV placement is bruising or swelling at the IV insertion site. These reactions are common. You may also experience pain or discomfort when the IV is inserted. Please talk to the lab staff if you are concerned about the IV insertion.

Before the Test

Scheduling the tilt test

The scheduling secretary will tell you when to report for your tilt test. If you are scheduling this test by phone, your appointment schedule will be mailed to you.

How long will the test last?

The test takes about 1 ½ hours to complete. The test may be shorter, depending on your symptoms and the changes observed in blood pressure and heart rate. Plan on being at the hospital for about 2 for your appointment.

Should I take my medications?

Yes. You can take your prescription medications as you normally would, with water. However, do not take diuretics or laxatives before the test.

If you have diabetes, please request a 10:30 am appointment time for your test so you may eat a light breakfast before 7 am and also complete the test in time for lunch.

If you have questions or need help making adjustments to your medications, please call your referring physician. Do not discontinue any medication without first talking to your health care provider.

Can I eat before the test?

Eat a normal meal the evening before your procedure. DO NOT eat or drink anything except small amounts of water for 4 hours before the test. If you must take medications, please take them with small sips of water to help you swallow your pills.

What should I wear?

Wear comfortable clothes and shoes. You may wear a short-sleeved or sleeveless t-shirt in place of a hospital gown. If you are wearing a long-sleeved or tight-fitting shirt, you may be asked to remove it and change into a hospital gown for the test. You will be given a locker for your clothing.

Please leave all jewelry (including wedding rings), watches and valuables at home.

What should I bring?

Please bring the following to your appointment:

  • Recent medical history and physical exam report
  • Medical records pertinent to your health condition (if available)
  • List of current medications and dosages
  • List of allergies (including medication, food and environmental allergies)
  • Your insurance card

Where do I go for my appointment?

Your health care team will instruct you on where to go for your test.

Where is the test performed?

The test is performed in a special room called the Tilt Lab.

What happens just before the test?

A nurse will explain the procedure in detail, answer your questions and help you get ready for the test.

Tilt table: You will lie on the tilt table, which is a motorized table with a metal footboard. Your feet will rest against the footboard. For your safety, soft Velcro straps will be placed across your body to secure you when the table is tilted during the test. Please note that you will always be tilted upright so your head is above your feet; you will never be tilted upside-down.

IV placement: An IV (intravenous) line will be placed in a vein in your arm or on the back of your hand. The IV may be used to take blood samples for blood tests ordered by your doctor. A blood sample may be taken before and during the tilt test to measure a hormone called catecholamine (adrenaline). The blood sample will only be taken if indicated by your medical history.

The IV also may be used to deliver medications during the test only if necessary to treat your symptoms, blood pressure or heart rate changes.

Blood pressure cuffs will be placed around both arms. The blood pressure cuffs are attached to monitors so your blood pressure can be observed during the test. One cuff will pump automatically every minute, while the other cuff will be pumped by the nurse every 10 minutes.

Electrodes: Small, sticky patches called electrodes will be placed on your chest. The electrodes are connected to an electrocardiograph monitor (EKG) that records the electrical activity of your heart as a graph or series of lines on a moving strip of paper. The EKG shows your heart rate and rhythm during the test.

During the Test

What happens during the test?

First you will lie flat on your back. Your initial (baseline) blood pressure and EKG data will be recorded as you lie quietly before the test begins. After resting for 15 minutes, the test will be started.

Your blood pressure and heart rate will be constantly monitored throughout the test. Your blood pressure is measured on a minute-by-minute basis, and your heart rate is displayed continuously on the monitor and recorded every minute. The data is recorded and stored in a computer.

The motorized table is controlled by a nurse or technician and will be tilted to different angles during the test. The table will be tilted at several angles in sequence (30 degrees for 2 minutes, then 45 degrees for 2 minutes, then 70 degrees for up to 45 minutes). You will always be tilted upright so your head is above your feet; you will never be tilted upside-down.

When the table is titled at 30 and 45 degrees, you will feel as if you are lying on a steep hill. When it is tilted at 70 degrees, you will be in an upright position and your feet will be supported by the footboard at the end of the table.

Qualified medical personnel will be present during the entire test.

Limited Movement During the Test

  • We ask that you try to stay as still and as quiet as possible during the test so the test results can be accurately recorded.
  • Please do not move or exercise your legs while you are in the standing position.
  • Please try not to talk unless you need to report your symptoms.
  • We will try to make you as comfortable as possible during the test.

How will I feel during the test?

Throughout the test, the nurse or technician will ask you how you feel. You may not have any symptoms, or you may experience pre-syncope symptoms (called premonitory symptoms), such as light-headedness, dizziness, nausea, palpitations (fluttering in the chest) or blurred vision.

The purpose of the test is not to make you faint, although fainting may occur, depending on your individual response to the test.

It is important to tell the staff how you are feeling throughout the test. Your symptoms, along with the data obtained during the test, will help the doctor diagnose the cause of your condition.

If you feel like you cannot continue the test because of the symptoms you are experiencing during the test or because of other symptoms such as arthritis, or back, knee or foot pain, please tell the staff. Occasionally the test will be stopped if you really feel you cannot continue. If the staff’s assessment indicates it is safe for you to continue the test, you may be encouraged to continue the test so the most complete results can be obtained.

After the Test

What happens after the test?

After the test is finished, the table will be lowered to a flat position. You will be observed for 5 to 10 minutes as you lay flat, and as your blood pressure and EKG are measured.

You will stay in the lab area an additional 15 to 20 minutes after completing the test, or until all of the symptoms you may have experienced during the test have resolved.

The IV will be removed after your last test of the day. Bruising or swelling at the IV site are common reactions, but talk to the lab staff if you are concerned.

Going home after the test

You are usually able to go home after the test. For your safety a responsible adult should drive you home after the test.

What the test results mean

Before you go home, the doctor will discuss the test results with you and your family member. If you have any questions at this time, please feel free to ask.

A positive tilt table test means that a patient may have a condition that causes an abnormal change in blood pressure or heart rate. A negative tilt table test means that the patient did not show signs of a condition that causes an abnormal change in blood pressure or heart rate. In either case, additional tests may be needed to diagnose the patient’s condition.

Follow-up care

Your referring doctor will receive a letter that explains the test results. You will also receive a copy of the letter. Your doctor will discuss the test results with you and discuss any necessary changes in your treatment.

You may receive follow-up care from your primary care physician or referring physician.

Your medications may be changed or you may start to take new medications. You may be referred to other doctors or services to treat your condition.

** Source: Cleveland Clinic.



Cardiac Resynchronization Therapy (CRT)

Cardiac Resynchronization Therapy (CRT)

Cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT) is a device-based therapy for patients with damaged heart muscles, electrical timing abnormalities, and symptomatic heart failure.

Also known as biventricular pacing (bi-V pacing), CRT can be accomplished with either a pacemaker or an ICD (see pacemaker and ICD sections for further details on these procedures).

CRT is essentially a pacemaker or ICD with an extra, or third, wire or lead. The lead is placed in a very strategic place – inside a vein called the coronary sinus. Because the coronary sinus overlies the left ventricle (LV), pacing of the left ventricle can be accomplished. Ordinary pacemakers and ICDs can only pace the right ventricle (RV) and right atrium (RA). With both right and left ventricular leads, though, CRT can “resynchronize” the heart – helping to make it beat more efficiently and stronger. A large proportion of CRT patients find that they have reduced breathlessness and more stamina. There is also evidence that CRT reduces hospitalizations and prolongs life.





Who should have a CRT pacemaker or ICD?

Patients who have significant shortness of breath and exercise limitations, heart muscle damage, and evidence of electrical “dysynchrony” on their ECG are potential candidates for this therapy. You should discuss your particular situation with your doctor to see if CRT therapy is right for you.


Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillators (ICDs)

Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillators (ICDs)

An “implantable defibrillator” is more correctly called an “implantable cardioverter defibrillator” or ICD for short. ICDs are intended for patients who have had or are at high risk for developing life-threatening rapid heart racing attacks called ventricular tachycardia (VT) or ventricular fibrillation (VF) that can lead to death. An ICD is larger in size than a regular pacemaker and many ICD models include all the features of a regular pacemaker. What makes an ICD different from a pacemaker is that, if and when a bout of VT or VF occurs in a patient, the ICD will either rapidly pace the heart to “overdrive” it, or deliver a shock to restore a normal rhythm. It is important to remember that an ICD does not prevent VT or VF attacks; they only stop them once they have occurred. ICDs have been shown in many large studies to significantly reduce the risk of death in certain groups of patients.


What are the parts of an ICD?

When a person receives an ICD, two basic parts are inserted: the ICD generator and one or more ICD leads (often called wires). The generator is often called the “battery”. In reality, a generator contains not only the battery but all the important wiring and circuitry that make the ICD work properly. In fact, generators are like miniature computers. ICD generators send out pacing pulses or shocks that are delivered to the heart by the ICD leads. ICD leads are inserted through the veins and the tips of the leads are attached to the heart. The other end is then hooked into the generator so that the electrical sparks can be sent down the lead to either pace or shock the heart when needed.

                                                                                  An ICD implanted


What is done in preparation for ICD implantation?

The first step in implanting an ICD is for doctors to establish that an ICD is needed. Once this decision is made and the operation date booked, you will be notified of the date and time. The ICD implantation operation is performed in a procedure room or operating room. Your physician may elect to discharge you the same day after the implant, or admit you for one or more days, depending on your specific needs.

In preparation for the operation, you will be given basic instructions by hospital staff. Usually, you will be asked not to eat or drink anything the morning of the operation. Someone else should drive you to the hospital and take you home afterwards. If you are taking medications, please ask the hospital staff contacting you if it is alright to take your pills the morning of the operation. Oral anticoagulants (also called blood thinner pills) often must be stopped several days before the operation. If you are taking them, please speak to a nurse at the hospital regarding your situation to obtain further instructions.

When you arrive for your procedure, staff will put an intravenous needle into a hand vein. Your doctor and other members of the team will then answer any of your questions before they transfer you into the operating room.

What are the risks associated with ICD implantation?

As with every operation, there are risks associated with ICD implantation.

During the procedure, there is a small chance that you could have an allergic or other adverse reaction to the medications that are given. Your doctor and nurses will be watching carefully for this and are prepared to deal with this if it happens. The implant procedure itself may be complicated by bleeding, infection, leakage of air from the lung into the chest cavity, dislodgment of the lead(s) or the creation of a hole in the heart. Generally, the risks are low and ICD implantation is considered to be a minor procedure.

After implant, there is a chance that the ICD components may perform less well than expected. This could lead to a recommendation to replace the ICD, lead(s) or both. Some companies also issue advisories about certain devices after implant. If this happens, your doctor will discuss the specific implications for you.

ICDs are designed to treat dangerous heart rhythms with either rapid “overdrive” pacing or a shock. However, sometimes the devices can be fooled, and they mistake a non-dangerous fast heart rhythm, or even electrical “noise”, for a dangerous heart rhythm. When this happens, the device may deliver what we call an “inappropriate shock”. Like all shocks, inappropriate shocks are painful, and therefore they are to be avoided. If you have an inappropriate shock, your doctor will work with you and your device to minimize the chance that it would happen again.

What can I do now that I have an ICD?

  1. For the first several days, do not do anything strenuous with your arms and allow the wound to heal. Avoid lifting your arm over your head for at least several days and try not to allow anything to hit the wound area.
  1. You may resume normal daily activities as much as you like within limits of pain from the operation site. Ask your doctors about whether you can resume driving because there are usually restrictions about when you may resume driving.
  1. You may take a bath as soon as you return home but try not to get the dressing wet or rub the area. Taking a shower is possible but keep your back to the shower spray so that the water does not spray onto the dressing directly.
  1. Take your usual medications as directed by your doctor. If you normally take blood thinner drugs (anticoagulants), please ask for instructions from the hospital doctors and follow those instructions.

How long does an ICD last before it needs to be replaced?

An ICD generator lasts, on average, 4-7 years but it all depends on how much your body needs to use the device. It also depends upon how much electricity is needed to make the heart beat each time The more you use it and the more electricity required for each spark, the shorter time the device will last.

Why do I need to be seen in the Arrhythmia Device Clinic?

Every person who receives an ICD should have a regular checkup at least twice a year in Device Clinic. In the Clinic, the amount of battery power remaining is measured and the functioning of the ICD is assessed to make sure that the settings are correct, have not inadvertently been changed and that there are no signs of trouble with the generator or leads. It also allows the staff to ask how you are feeling in order to determine whether the ICD settings need to be changed to better meet your needs.

How often should I be checked in the Device Clinic?

Your physician will determine how often you need to be seen in the Device Clinic. If there are any concerns, you may be asked to return to the Clinic sooner or more frequently. If you received a research ICD, you may be asked to return more frequently for follow-up checks. Finally, as the battery power starts to get low and time to replacing the generator draws closer, more frequent checks may be needed.

Must my ICD follow-up checks all be done at the centre where I was implanted?

It is often possible for ICD checks to be done at the Device Clinic closest or most convenient to where you live. You should discuss follow-up with your physician before you go home.


More About ICDs

You have been referred to a specialist to discuss the risk of life threatening heart rhythm disturbances and whether an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) would be useful for you. This section is intended to provide information to you and your family/friends about what an ICD is, why it may be helpful to you, and the advantages and disadvantages of having an ICD.

What is an ICD?

An ICD is a medical device that is implanted under the skin much like a pacemaker but an ICD generator (or commonly called a “battery”) is larger. The ICD system consists of the generator (about half the size of a pack of playing cards) AND one or more wires (also called “leads”).

Two examples of ICD generators are shown with a two-dollar coin for size comparison.

The ICD leads connect the ICD generator to the heart so that it can monitor your heart beat, recognize when the heart develops a dangerously rapid racing and then automatically treat it with electric shocks. These shocks can reliably correct (“stop”) the abnormal heart rhythm that could otherwise be fatal.

The ICD also contains many features of a pacemaker, which treats any heart slowing that may occur. Some ICDs have a third wire that goes into the left side of the heart and is intended to improve the heart’s pumping function. Remember to discuss this with your doctor, since the decision regarding the number of wires is based on a number of factors specific to each patient’s case.

How is the ICD implanted or “inserted”?

The ICD generator is placed under the skin in the chest beneath your right or left collarbone. The ICD leads are inserted into a large vein that runs under your collarbone and are guided under X-ray to the heart. Implantation of an ICD is a small operation that will be performed in either a device implant room or an operating room. The procedure does not require major surgery such as opening the chest so a general anesthetic is not usually required. Patients are usually given mild sedation through the intravenous line to reduce anxiety. The doctor will inject local anesthetic (“freezing medication” or “dental freezing”) to numb the area. While the local anesthetic may sting as it is injected, once it takes effect, you should feel very little pain during the implant procedure.

During the implantation procedure, the doctor may wish to test the ICD to ensure that it works appropriately. If so, you will be put into a deeper sleep with more sedative medication through the intravenous line. The staff will then trigger your heart to race rapidly and instruct the ICD to give your heart a shock and take measurements to ensure that the ICD is working satisfactorily. Once that is completed, the incision is closed using sutures that dissolve on their own and do not need to be removed. A clear dressing that feels like plastic film wrap is placed over the wound to keep it clean. You are then taken from the procedure room to a recovery room to rest. A chest X-ray and electrocardiogram are performed and nurses will provide you with instructions about care of your wound and a follow-up appointment in the ICD Clinic. When you are sufficiently recovered, you will be discharged home.

How does the ICD work?

The ICD wires connected to the heart pick up the electrical signal coming from your heart as it beats and feeds that signal into the ICD generator. The ICD generator contains a battery and computer circuits that help it recognize when the heart is beating slowly or rapidly and dangerously. If and when the heart suddenly starts racing dangerously, the ICD detects this and the computers inside will tell the ICD to automatically give a shock to correct the heart rhythm or alternatively, deliver smaller electrical impulses to pace your heart gently out of the dangerous racing and back to normal. The ICD successfully corrects the heart rhythm in virtually all circumstances, but it does not affect why the event happened nor will it prevent it from happening again. Recurrences can only be prevented by heart medications or other procedures. Approximately one third of patients with an ICD take a medication to try to prevent the heart from racing.

What the ICD does when a dangerous heart-racing episode occurs depends upon how the ICD is programmed by the doctor and ICD Clinic nurse.

How is the ICD programmed?

The doctor or nurse can communicate and program the settings of an ICD specific to your needs and your type of medical problem. To do this, we use an ICD programmer, which is a laptop computer that sends radio waves to talk to the ICD inside your body. The ICD also stores information about what is happening to the device and can send that information back to the programmer by radio waves so the doctor or nurse can check the ICD regularly. To communicate with the ICD, the nurse will place a plastic disk that is connected to the programmer over the skin area where your ICD is implanted. These radio waves will not harm you.

What types of persons are considered for an ICD?

Two types of people are usually offered an ICD. The first type of person is someone who has already experienced one or more episodes of dangerous heart racing leading to blackouts or even cardiac arrest (commonly referred to as “heart stoppage”). Based on the circumstances and heart function, the doctor often recommends an ICD to protect patients in the event that the heart-racing episode returns. The second type of candidate for an ICD is a person who has had severe damage to their heart caused by such things as a previous heart attack or weakened heart muscle from leaky valves or previous viral infections. These people are at increased risk of having a fatal heart racing attack, even though it has not actually happened yet. Most patients who experience a cardiac arrest do not survive to receive an ICD. As a result, patients at risk for cardiac arrest may undergo ICD implant as a form of sudden death prevention.

What are the benefits of an ICD or why should I have one?

Your doctor has determined that you are at risk for having a dangerous and potentially lethal attack of heart-racing. These attacks can occur without advance warning at any time. The major benefit of an ICD is that it can prevent a patient from dying suddenly if an attack should occur and provides reassurance and peace of mind to the patient and family that he/she is protected from the tragedy of an unexpected sudden death. A useful analogy is to think of an ICD like one thinks of a fire extinguisher in the home. If you have one in the house, it can be used to put out a potentially dangerous fire should one occur BUT a fire extinguisher does not prevent a fire from breaking out in the house at any time. The same applies to an ICD. It cannot prevent a dangerous heart-racing bout from occurring but it can stop it if it happens. Major studies have established that the ICD reduces the risk of death in appropriately selected patients.

What are the disadvantages or risks of an ICD or why might I not want one?

The first concern is the risk of the implant procedure. There is no medical procedure that is without some risk. These risks will be explained to you before getting your consent to go ahead with the surgery. Minor complications such as minor bleeding or bruising, or pain at the surgery site occur about 2-5% of the time. Major complications from surgery, including collapsed lung, ICD lead falling out of the normal position or going through the heart wall occur about 1% of the time.

The second disadvantage is that the device may deliver shocks when the heart develops another kind of heart racing that is NOT dangerous. This happens in up to 25% of patients. Shocks can be painful and unsettling but can often be reduced or avoided after careful ICD re-programming or medications.

The third issue is that the ICD is a machine that is subject to normal “wear and tear” and needs to be checked regularly (approximately every 6 months) at the out-patient ICD Follow-up Clinic. During those visits, the battery strength is checked. A new battery usually lasts between 4-7 years. The ICD is also checked for any signs of malfunction. Rarely, ICD models can be made with serious defects that can cause the ICD to fail. Fortunately, this is very rare but is a limitation of all implanted devices.

Most patients feel better knowing that they have a device inside them that protects them but, in general, an ICD will NOT improve how much physical activity you can do. The only exception is a special three-wired ICD that is offered to certain patients meeting certain criteria. You are certainly welcome to ask the doctor during your visit whether you may be a candidate for such a special ICD.

Finally, the ICD does not prevent all sudden deaths nor will it affect death from poor heart function (heart failure) or other diseases such as kidney or lung disease, stroke or cancer. It can only prevent some deaths from dangerous rapid heart racing.

What things can I not do with an ICD?

We encourage patients receiving an ICD to resume as normal a lifestyle and physical activity as they were enjoying before the ICD. You can continue to operate household appliances including a microwave and radios. Please avoid putting magnets (even fridge magnets) on the skin over the ICD. Avoid being in areas where there are strong magnets and, for the time being, avoid MRI scans. When walking through security scanners or anti-theft scanners in airports or stores, walk straight through the detector gate as instructed without pausing. In general, having an ICD does not prevent you from driving a car. Driving licenses are usually suspended when you have had episodes of dangerous heart racing that required the ICD to treat and not because of the ICD itself.

Finally, things to think about…

Considering an ICD means thinking about end of life issues, which can be difficult for some people and their families. The ICD may affect how long you live, but for the most part does not affect how well you feel. Try to think about what you expect out of life, how enjoyable life is and how worried you are about the issue of sudden death. You should discuss this with your doctor, since an ICD is not for everyone.

Shocks are experienced by 10-30% of ICD patients each year. Most patients are aware of the shock, and describe it as painful. Although having an ICD often leads to peace of mind from the protection it provides, shocks can be stressful and can contribute to anxiety and depression in ICD patients. On the whole, most patients report that the device does not bother their everyday life, but receiving an ICD does involve recovery from the surgery and a minority of patients has ongoing discomfort from the implant.

** Source: Canadian Heart Rhythm Society


Coronary Angioplasty (PCI)


Coronary angioplasty (AN-jee-o-plas-tee), also called percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI), is a procedure used to open clogged heart arteries. Angioplasty involves temporarily inserting and blowing up a tiny balloon where your artery is clogged to help widen the artery.

Angioplasty is often combined with the permanent placement of a small wire mesh tube called a stent to help prop the artery open and decrease the chance of it narrowing again. Some stents are coated with medication to help keep your artery open (drug-eluting stents), while others are not (bare-metal stents).

Angioplasty can improve some of the symptoms of blocked arteries, such as chest pain and shortness of breath. Angioplasty can also be used during a heart attack to quickly open a blocked artery and reduce the amount of damage to your heart.

Why it’s done:

Atherosclerosis (ath-ur-o-skluh-RO-sis) is hardening and narrowing of the arteries caused by the accumulation of fatty deposits (plaques) and other substances. A blood clot also may form at the site, completely blocking your artery and causing a heart attack.

Angioplasty is used to treat a type of heart disease known as atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is the slow buildup of fatty plaques in your heart’s blood vessels. When medications or lifestyle changes aren’t enough to improve your heart health, or if you have a heart attack, worsening chest pain (angina) or other symptoms, your doctor might suggest angioplasty as a treatment option.

Angioplasty isn’t for everyone, though. If the main artery supplying the left side of your heart is narrowed, if your heart muscle is weak or if you have small diseased blood vessels , then coronary artery bypass surgery may be a better option. In coronary artery bypass surgery, the blocked portion of your artery is bypassed using a vein from another part of your body.

In addition, if you have diabetes and multiple blockages, your doctor may suggest coronary artery bypass surgery. The decision of angioplasty versus bypass surgery will depend on the extent of your heart disease and overall medical condition.


Although angioplasty is a less invasive way to open clogged arteries, the procedure still carries some risks.

The most common angioplasty risks include:

Re-narrowing of your artery (restenosis). With angioplasty alone — without stent placement — restenosis happens in as many as 30 to 40 percent of cases. Stents were developed to reduce restenosis. The original bare-metal stents reduce the chance of restenosis to less than 20 percent, and the use of drug-eluting stents has reduced the risk to less than 10 percent.

Blood clots. Blood clots can form within stents even weeks or months after angioplasty. These clots may cause a heart attack. It’s important to take aspirin, clopidogrel (Plavix) and other medications exactly as prescribed to decrease the chance of clots forming in your stent. Talk to your doctor about how long you’ll need to take these medications and whether they can be discontinued if you need surgery.

Bleeding. You may have bleeding at the site in your leg or arm where a catheter was inserted. Usually this simply results in a bruise, but sometimes serious bleeding occurs and may require blood transfusion or surgical procedures.

Other rare risks of angioplasty include:

Heart attack. Though rare, you may have a heart attack during the procedure.

Coronary artery damage. Your coronary artery may be torn or ruptured (dissected) during the procedure. These complications may require emergency bypass surgery.

Kidney problems. The dye used during angioplasty and stent placement can cause kidney damage, especially in people who already have kidney problems. If you’re at increased risk, your doctor may give you a medication to try to protect your kidneys.

Stroke. During angioplasty, blood clots that may form on the catheters can break loose and travel to your brain. Blood thinners are given during the procedure to reduce this risk. A stroke can also occur if plaques in your heart break loose when the catheters are being threaded through the aorta.

Abnormal heart rhythms. You heart may get irritated during the procedure and beat too quickly or too slowly. These heart rhythm problems are usually short-lived, but sometimes medications or a temporary pacemaker is needed.

How you prepare

Before a scheduled angioplasty, your doctor will review your medical history and do a physical exam. You’ll also have an imaging test called a coronary angiogram to determine if your blockages can be treated with angioplasty. A coronary angiogram helps doctors determine if the main arteries to your heart are narrowed or blocked. A liquid dye is injected into the arteries of your heart through a catheter — a long, thin tube that’s fed through an artery, usually in your groin, to arteries in your heart. As the dye fills your arteries, they become visible on X-ray and video, so your doctor can see where your arteries are blocked. If your doctor finds a blockage during your coronary angiogram, it’s possible he or she may decide to perform angioplasty and stenting immediately after the angiogram while your heart is still catheterized.

You’ll receive instructions about eating or drinking before angioplasty. Typically, you have to stop eating or drinking by midnight the night before. Your preparation may be different if you’re already staying at the hospital before your procedure.

Whether the angioplasty is pre-scheduled or done as an emergency, you’ll likely have some routine tests first, including a chest X-ray, electrocardiogram (ECG) and blood tests.

The night before your procedure, you should:

Follow your doctor’s instructions about adjusting your current medications before angioplasty. Your doctor may instruct you to stop taking certain medications before angioplasty, particularly if you take certain diabetes medications or blood thinners.

Gather all of your medications to take to the hospital with you, including nitroglycerin, if you take it.

Take approved medications with only small sips of water.

Arrange for transportation home. Angioplasty usually requires an overnight hospital stay, and you won’t be able to drive yourself home the next day.

What you can expect

During the procedure

Your body isn’t cut open except for a very small cut in a blood vessel in the leg, arm or wrist through which a small, thin tube (called a catheter) is threaded and the procedure performed. Angioplasty can take 30 minutes to several hours, depending on how many blockages you have and whether any complications arise.

Angioplasty is performed by a heart specialist (cardiologist) and a team of specialized cardiovascular nurses and technicians, usually in a special operating room called a cardiac catheterization laboratory.

Angioplasty is commonly performed through an artery in your groin (femoral artery). Less commonly, it may be done using an artery in your arm or wrist area. Before the procedure, the area is prepared with antiseptic solution and a sterile drape is placed over your body. A local anesthetic is injected into your groin to numb the area. Small electrode pads are placed on your chest to monitor your heart rate and rhythm during the procedure.

General anesthesia isn’t needed, so you’re awake during the procedure. You’ll receive fluids and medications to relax you through an intravenous (IV) catheter. You’ll get blood-thinning medications (anticoagulants) to reduce blood clotting, and then the procedure begins:

After numbing the incision area, a small needle is used to access an artery in your leg or arm. A small cut is made in the skin.

Your doctor will then insert a thin guidewire followed by a catheter into the artery and thread from the incision area up to the blockage in your heart.

You might feel pressure in your groin while this is being done, but you shouldn’t feel sharp pain. Tell your doctor if you do. You also won’t feel the catheter in your body.

A small amount of dye is injected through the catheter. This helps your doctor look at the blockage on X-ray images called angiograms.

A small balloon at the end of the catheter is inflated, widening the blocked artery. The balloon stays inflated for up to several minutes at the site of the blockage, stretching out the artery before it’s deflated and removed. Your doctor might inflate and deflate the balloon several times before it’s removed, stretching the artery a bit more each time to widen it.

Because the balloon temporarily blocks blood flow to part of your heart, it’s common to experience chest pain while it’s inflated. If you have several blockages, the procedure may be repeated at each blockage.

Stent placement

Most people who have angioplasty also have a stent placed in their blocked artery during the procedure. The stent is usually placed in the artery once it is widened by the inflated balloon. The stent supports the walls of your artery to help prevent it from re-narrowing after the angioplasty. The stent looks like a tiny coil of wire mesh.

Here’s what happens:

The stent is collapsed, placed around a balloon at the tip of the catheter and guided through the artery to the blockage.

At the blockage, the balloon is inflated and the spring-like stent expands and locks into place inside the artery.

The stent remains in the artery permanently to hold it open and improve blood flow to your heart.

Once the stent is in place, the balloon catheter is removed and more images (angiograms) are taken to see how well blood flows through your newly widened artery.

Finally, the guide catheter is removed and the procedure completed.


After your stent placement, you may need prolonged treatment with medications to reduce the chance of blood clots forming on the stent material.

After the procedure

You’ll probably remain hospitalized one day while your heart is monitored. While you are in the hospital, your doctor will likely prescribe anticoagulant medications to prevent blood clots and medications to relax your arteries and protect against coronary spasms that can cause a heart attack. You should be able to return to work or your normal routine the week after angioplasty.

When you return home, drink plenty of fluids to help rid your body of the contrast dye. Avoid strenuous exercise and lifting heavy objects for several days afterward. Ask your doctor or nurse about other restrictions in activity.

Call your doctor’s office or hospital staff immediately if:

The site where your catheter was inserted starts bleeding or swelling

You develop increasing pain or discomfort at the site where your catheter was inserted

You have signs of infection, such as redness, swelling, drainage or fever

There’s a change in temperature or color of the leg or arm that was used for the procedure

You feel faint or weak

You develop chest pain or shortness of breath

Blood thinners

It’s important that you closely follow your doctor’s recommendations about your treatment with blood-thinning medications — aspirin and clopidogrel or similar medications.

Most people who have undergone angioplasty with or without stent placement will need to take aspirin for life. Those who have had stent placement will need a blood-thinning medication such as clopidogrel for a year or longer in some cases. If you have any questions or if you need noncardiac surgery, talk to your cardiologist before stopping any of these medications.


For most people, coronary angioplasty greatly increases blood flow through the previously narrowed or blocked coronary artery . Your chest pain should decrease, and you may have a better ability to exercise.

Having angioplasty and stenting doesn’t mean your heart disease goes away. You’ll need to continue healthy lifestyle habits and possibly take medications to ensure your artery doesn’t re-narrow. If your symptoms return, such as chest pain or shortness of breath, or other symptoms similar to those you had before your procedure, contact your doctor. If you have chest pain at rest or pain that doesn’t respond to nitroglycerin, call 911 or emergency medical help.

To keep your heart healthy after angioplasty, you should:

Quit smoking

Lower your cholesterol levels

Maintain a healthy weight

Control other conditions, such as diabetes and high blood pressure

Get regular exercise

Successful angioplasty also means you might not have to undergo an invasive surgical procedure called coronary artery bypass surgery. In a bypass, an artery or a vein is removed from a different part of your body and sewn to the surface of your heart to take over for the blocked coronary artery. This surgery requires an incision in the chest. Recovery from bypass surgery is usually longer and more uncomfortable.

If you have many blockages or narrowing of the main artery leading to the heart, reduced heart function, or diabetes, your doctor may recommend bypass surgery instead of angioplasty and stent placement. In addition, for technical reasons some blockages may be better treated with bypass surgery.

Electrical Cardioversion

Electrical Cardioversion is a procedure carried out to restore a normal cardiac rhythm in selected patients whose heart rhythm is abnormal. It involves the controlled delivery of energy through the chest wall in order to “electrically reset” the heart. Most scheduled cardioversions are done for patients with atrial fibrillation (AF) or atrial flutter (AFL). Sometimes, though, cardioversions may be carried out for supraventricular tachycardia (SVT) or the stable form of ventricular tachycardia (VT).

Cardioversions are slightly different from defibrillation. While both procedures involve delivering a shock to the heart, defibrillation is usually carried out for immediately life threatening arrhythmias like ventricular fibrillation (VF). Cardioversions are generally done in non-urgent situations, and are, in fact, often scheduled procedures. Some are done in Emergency Departments, and others may be done in Electrophysiology (EP) Labs.

How is electrical cardioversion done?

Electrical cardioversion is carried out with either deep sedation or general anesthesia. Patients have an IV placed in their hand or wrist, and medication is administered to allow the patient to drift off to sleep. Sticky pads are placed on the chest and back, and hooked up to an external defibrillator. (Sticky pads are now used instead of “the paddles” that most people are familiar with from TV shows). When the patient is asleep, the physician delivers a shock (ranging from 50-360 Joules, depending on the arrhythmia and other factors like patient size). Usually, only one shock is required. However, if the first shock does not work, the physician may elect to try 2-3 more times with higher energies, or with the sticky pads in a different place.

Usually, the procedure is over within minutes, and patients recover quickly.

A defibrillator, used for electrical cardioversions

An ECG Before, During, and After Cardioversion for Atrial Fibrillation (AF)

What are the chances that electrical cardioversion will work for me?

The chances that cardioversion will successfully restore the normal rhythm for you depends on many factors, including the arrhythmia you have, how long you have been in it, the size of your heart chambers, medications you are on, and other factors. Your doctor will discuss this with you.

What are the risks of electrical cardioversion?

Cardioversion is generally considered to be a low-risk procedure.

Some patients will describe a burning sensation of the skin for a few days afterwards (like a sunburn), but this is usually self-limiting.

Rare complications, like heart failure or stroke, have been reported.

Your doctor will discuss the risks with you as they vary depending on the specific condition you have.

What about blood thinners?

Some arrhythmias, like atrial fibrillation (AF) and atrial flutter (AFL) ordinarily require blood thinners (like coumadin or warfarin) to be taken before and after a cardioversion. This is because these arrhythmias are associated with an elevated risk of stroke, and being on blood thinners helps to reduce that risk. Restoring the normal rhythm sometimes results in a few days of sluggish blood flow in the upper chambers of the heart (the atria), and this can therefore be a higher risk period for stroke. This is why it is extremely important to be on adequate doses of blood thinners before, during, and after the cardioversion.

Some patients, though, can’t take blood thinners, but still need a cardioversion. Others need a cardioversion, but can’t wait for three weeks for blood thinners to “kick in”. In these special cases, a special test called a transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE) may be arranged by your doctor. This is a test that allows for imaging of the upper chambers of the heart, particularly the left atrium, where blood clots tend to form. A tube with an ultrasound probe is passed down the swallowing tube (the esophagus), and pictures are taken. If there is no clot, the cardioversion may be able to go ahead even without blood thinners on board.

What else should I know about electrical cardioversion?

  • You should have nothing to eat or drink for at least eight hours prior to the procedure.
  • Take your regularly scheduled medications the morning of the procedure unless your doctor has told you otherwise. Your medications should only be taken with enough water to get the tablets down. If you are diabetic, you should discuss your insulin or other diabetes medication dosing with your doctor.
  • Bring a list of all your medications with you.
  • Most centers will not let you drive yourself home after receiving anesthesia; therefore you should arrange a ride home that day.
  • For the remainder of the day, you should not operate a car, drink alcohol, operate heavy machinery, or make any important decisions.

Don’t stop blood thinners (e.g. warfarin, coumadin) after the cardioversion until your doctor tells you that you can.





The operator puts some clear gel on your chest and then places an ultrasound probe on it. The probe sends ultrasound beams into your body and their reflections are detected and used to generate images of the heart. You can see different parts of your heart on a screen as the probe is moved around on your chest.

(Also called an ‘echo’.)

This test uses ultrasound waves to look at the structure of the heart. It is useful for people whose ECG shows changes that could be caused either by a channelopathy or by uninherited heart disease that has damaged the heart – for example a previous heart attack that you may not have even been aware of. An echocardiogram can also detect inheritable conditions such as cardiomyopathy and mitral valve prolapse.


**Source: sads.org.uk

Electrophysiology Studies

What is an electrophysiology study?

An electrophysiology study, or EPS, is a diagnostic procedure to look more closely at the electrical function of your heart. It is the most accurate and reliable method of evaluating your heart rhythms and will help your physician determine the treatment option that is most appropriate for you.

How does electricity work in my heart?

The body naturally produces electricity that travels over the heart muscle and stimulates the heart to contract or beat.

The electrical signal that tells your heart to beat comes from a small area of the right atrium of the heart. This area is located in the upper right chamber of your heart and is called the sinoatrial node, or SA node.

When a signal is given by the SA node, a small electrical impulse runs through your heart and stimulates the heart muscle to contract. The contraction of the heart muscle produces a heartbeat and forces blood out of your heart to the rest of your body.

Certain conditions can cause the electrical system to make the heart beat too slowly, too fast or in an uncoordinated manner. These irregular patterns are called arrhythmias, and they can occur in any of the four chambers of the heart.

An electrophysiology study will help your physician determine the best treatment for you by showing where the arrhythmias are occurring.

How do I prepare for my EPS?

If you are currently taking medications to control your heart rhythms, you may be asked to stop taking them prior to the study. Your physician will give you specific instructions regarding other medications you may be taking. You will be asked not to eat or drink anything for eight hours prior to your EPS. On the day of your study, you will be admitted to the hospital, where you will have blood tests, an electrocardiogram and a chest X-ray done.

How is the electrophysiology study done?

An EPS is performed in an electrophysiology lab that will be darkened to make it easier to see the cardiac monitors. You will lie flat on a padded X-ray table, and an IV will be started for administration of medications that will be used. Your groin will be shaved and cleaned with an antiseptic solution. An area on the neck may also be cleaned, depending on the type of arrhythmia you have. A local anesthetic will be used to numb the skin, and a small tube (called a sheath) will be placed into a blood vessel in the groin. Once the sheath has been placed, small plastic catheters (pacing wires) are guided up to the heart.

A fluoroscopic X-ray allows your doctor to watch as the catheter is carefully guided to various locations in the heart. You will not feel the catheter being inserted into your heart because there are no sensory nerves inside veins and arteries. Recordings are made from the catheters, from which your physician can diagnose the type of arrhythmia you have and determine the best treatment.

How do the pacing wires work?

The pacing catheters are inserted into your heart to serve two purposes:

Record ECG signals from the inside of your heart

Deliver electrical impulses to your heart muscle (called “pacing”)

The pacing will trigger the arrhythmia that is causing your problem. During the test, you may feel your heart race or skip beats. This is caused by the electrical impulses from the pacing. When the arrhythmia is triggered, you may feel the same symptoms you have had in the past: chest pain, dizziness, warmth, palpitations or, in some cases, loss of consciousness.

The arrhythmia can be stopped by pacing your heart, administering medications or shocking your heart.

When an arrhythmia can be started and stopped, your physician may test an antiarrhythmic medication (through the IV) for a period of 20 to 30 minutes. When a satisfactory amount of medication has been given, your physician will repeat the pacing to determine if the drug will prevent your heart arrhythmia. When the entire study has been completed, the catheters and sheath will be removed. Firm pressure will be applied to the groin area for approximately 15 minutes to prevent bleeding from the insertion site. Once the bleeding has stopped, you will be moved to the recovery area. The entire EPS takes about two to three hours from start to finish.

Ablation therapy

Ablation therapy is a technique designed to treat fast heart rhythms (tachycardias) and eliminate the need for medications. After the area of the heart causing the arrhythmia is pinpointed, your physician treats the problem by applying radio frequency energy through the catheter, which destroys (or ablates) the arrhythmic tissue.

What happens next?

You will be required to lie flat for four to six hours following your study. Your blood pressure, heart rate and areas where the catheters were inserted will be checked frequently. Notify your nurse immediately if you should develop any numbness or tingling in your arm or leg, bleeding from the insertion site, or if you have chills or fever.

What are the risks?

An EPS is called an invasive procedure because a catheter is inserted into the body. As with any procedure of this type, there can be some risk involved. Your physician will discuss the risks of your particular case in detail with you.


Cardiac Catheterization & Coronary Angiography

Cardiac catheterization is a diagnostic procedure that provides your doctor with information that can not be obtained by any other means. The procedure is sometimes referred to as a coronary angiogram or coronary arteriography, and is simply a special X-ray test used to look at the arteries and chambers of the heart.

A cardiac catheterization is NOT surgery. It is a diagnostic study that generally takes about one hour to complete.

The Regina General hospital (RGH) offers experts in cardiac catheterization and other heart-related procedures.

What does cardiac catheterization show?

This procedure helps doctors to diagnose heart conditions such as coronary artery disease, defective heart valves or congenital heart defects (defects you are born with). Cardiac catheterization also provides important information about the heart’s pumping function.

How do I prepare for this procedure ?

There are several routine tests done before a cardiac catheterization, including EKG, blood tests (less than one week prior), medical history and exam, and chest X-Ray. You will receive specific instructions about the food you may have. Generally, you may have nothing to eat or drink six to eight hours before the procedure.

Some suggestions to help you prepare:

Pack a small bag of overnight clothing in case your doctor decides you need to stay overnight.

Do not bring any valuables.

Bring a list of medications (with exact names and dosages) that you currently take.

Your physician will tell you which medications you should take on the day of the procedure.

Arrange for someone to drive you home.

Be sure to tell the doctor or technician if you are allergic to X-ray dyes or seafood.

What should I expect?

The procedure is done in a catheterization laboratory (also called a cath lab). Generally, you will arrive on the morning of the day of the procedure. You will possibly go home later that same day, unless you are already a patient in the hospital.

You will be awake during the procedure, which usually takes less than an hour for catheterization only. If you have a balloon angioplasty or other procedure, more time will be required.

A local anesthetic is injected and a small tube, or sheath, is inserted into the artery in your arm or leg. You may feel a little pressure.

The procedure begins when the doctor inserts a thin, flexible tube (called a catheter) through the sheath into the artery. The catheter is passed toward your heart. As this is done, the doctors and technicians check the monitors to follow the catheter’s movement to the heart.

Then a dye is injected through the catheter. This helps the doctor to pinpoint where the problem with your coronary arteries might be. When the procedure is finished, the doctor will remove the catheter. A nurse or technician will apply pressure for 15-20 minutes. A pressure bandage is placed on the site before you are returned to the recovery area.

If the catheter was inserted in the groin, you’ll remain lying down for several hours and be asked not to move your leg. The nurses will watch you carefully, take your blood pressure and check the site frequently to make sure there is no bleeding. You will be asked to drink a lot of fluid to flush the dye out of your system. Most people have no pain and, in many cases, will go home that same day.

Your doctor will return before you leave to explain the results to you. Sometimes cardiac catheterization will show that your heart is just fine. If there is a problem, your doctor will discuss all possible treatments.

What can I do when I return home?

Be sure to make arrangements to have a friend or family member drive you home and to have someone stay with you the night you go home. Avoid heavy lifting, and do only light activities for a few days.

You may have a small bruise or lump the size of an olive under the skin at the insertion site. This should go away in a few weeks.

Call your doctor if:

The insertion site bleeds.

You feel chest pain or discomfort.

Your arm or leg feels numb or cold.

The bruising or swelling gets worse or increases.

You have a fever or signs of an infection appear at the insertion site.

You experience any other unusual symptoms.

What are the risks?

This is called an invasive procedure because a catheter is inserted into the body. As with any procedure of this type, there can be some risk involved. Please ask your doctor to discuss the risks and benefits so that you are fully informed.


It is important to be your own best health advocate. A good way to do that is by committing to routine physical exams and diagnostic tests as often as is recommended by your cardiac specialist. Early detection of heart disease is the key to effective treatment.


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