Clinical cardiac electrophysiologic testing has evolved rapidly since 1968, when the technique was first described. In an electrophysiologic study, electrode catheters are positioned within the heart to record electrical activity from the atrium, atrioventricular conduction tissue, and ventricle. Programmed stimulation is then performed, which involves pacing of the atrium or ventricle and introducing critically timed premature stimuli during sinus rhythm or paced rhythm. The use of programmed stimulation in conjunction with intracardiac recordings in electrophysiologic studies has facilitated the diagnosis of mechanisms of arrhythmias and the assessment of therapy. Electrophysiologic testing is useful in selected patients with sinus node dysfunction, conduction system disorders, supraventricular tachycardia, ventricular tachycardia, or ventricular fibrillation and in survivors of out-of-hospital cardiac arrest and patients with symptomatic but unsubstantiated rhythm disturbances. Therapeutic approaches that can be assessed by electrophysiologic testing include serial drug testing to determine the effectiveness of antiarrhythmic agents, antitachycardia pacing, the implantable defibrillator, transcatheter ablation, and electrophysiologically guided surgical procedures. In this review, we discuss the methods of electrophysiologic testing, its clinical applications in diagnosing the various cardiac rhythm disturbances, and its use in assessing various therapeutic modalities.
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