Cardiac Mapping

EP Studies at Sovah Health - Martinsville

Electricity flowing through the heart in a regular pattern causes the heart muscle to contract and pump blood and oxygen all over the body. When damaged tissue or other problems disrupt the electrical flow, the heart beats irregularly. This condition is called an arrhythmia.

Traditional tests record only the irregular heartbeats that occur during testing. With these tests, doctors may not obtain the detailed data they need to find the exact source of the problem.

Exciting new EP studies at Sovah Health - Martinsville are changing the situation for many patients in our region. Using new technology, such as our Ensite Velocity Mapping System, can help our cardiologists more efficiently visualize and guide treatment for abnormal heart rhythms, or cardiac arrhythmias. The EnSite Velocity System creates a 3D model of the patient's heart, allowing our cardiogists to visualize their patients' unique anatomy with great detail; this enables him to quickly locate the source of the problem and formulate a treatment strategy.

The EnSite Velocity System introduces innovative tools that the physician can use to streamline the diagnostic and treatment process, potentially reducing treatment time. The system can simultaneously collect 3D model data and electrical mapping points from multiple catheter electrodes, simplifying data collection.

The system also provides side-by-side views of the live procedure and previously recorded portions of the procedure, giving physicians a quick and easy comparison of events and results at different times throughout the procedure without losing the ability to visualize and navigate catheters.

With information the doctor obtains, they can not only diagnose the source of the irregular heartbeats, but also...

  • Determine the effectiveness of certain medications in dealing with a patient's condition
  • Predict a patient's risk for sudden cardiac death
  • Determine whether a patient needs a pacemaker or other device implanted near the heart.

An EP study is invasive in that the doctor inserts a small tube called a catheter into a blood vessel and maneuvers the tube into the heart. Once inside the heart, electrodes on the tip of the catheter gather data and pinpoint the damaged area or areas. During this process, the doctor may cause the heart to beat abnormally, administer certain medications or electrical impulses, and determine how well they return the heart to a normal rhythm.

Because abnormal heart rhythms are potentially dangerous, EP studies at Sovah Health - Martinsville are performed by a board-certified Cardiac Electrophysiologist, with assistance from a team of specially trained nurses, technologists, and other healthcare professionals. They perform the test in a well-equipped and controlled environment in order to increase the safety of the procedure.

Treating Irregular Heartbeats

The ideal treatment is the one that corrects an irregular heartbeat in the least invasive way. Consequently, a doctor may initially recommend lifestyle changes and medications. When conservative treatments are not effective, more invasive options may be necessary.

Factors that doctors and patients should discuss before treatment are the nature and severity of the patient's irregular heartbeat; underlying medical conditions that may affect the patient's quality of life; medications and treatments that a patient is receiving for other medical problems; and the patient's age, overall health, and personal and family medical history.

The doctor may recommend implanting an electronic device such as a pacemaker or an ICD, using a burst of energy to destroy small areas where irregular signals begin, or performing surgery.


Small, battery-powered pacemakers are most commonly implanted in patients who have an extremely slow heart rate, rapid and chaotic beating in the upper chambers of the heart, or heart failure. The purpose is to set an appropriate heart rate.

The device, which weighs about one ounce, is implanted below the collarbone. It is pre-programmed before being implanted and can be reprogrammed as necessary afterward.

Patients should tell their doctors that they have a pacemaker before having an MRI. MRIs use powerful magnets that can affect the pacemaker. Prolonged exposure to electronic security systems at airports and other facilities can cause problems in pacemakers. Full contact sports can damage pacemakers. Microwave ovens and cell phones do not affect pacemakers.

Radiofrequency Ablation

The purpose of this procedure is to destroy carefully selected tissue or otherwise interrupt inappropriate electrical signals that cause the heart to beat abnormally. During the procedure, a doctor inserts a long, flexible catheter into a vein, guides it to the heart, and delivers radiofrequency energy to the catheter. The energy concentrates heat on the tip of the catheter, creating scar tissue that blocks the inappropriate electrical signals and stabilizes the patient's heartbeat.