What's the Difference Between a Cath Lab and an EP Lab?

One question we're asked on a regular basis about interventional radiology equipment is, "What's the difference between a Cath lab and an electrophysiology (EP) lab?"

It’s a great question and, from a cursory look at how Cath lab equipment is used, you wouldn’t notice a difference. Both cardiac catheterization and electrophysiology labs use the same, small-detector radiology system hardware like a GE Innova 2100 IQ or Philips Allura FD10, for instance.

Still, there are significant differences between these two lab setups that require more than a brief glance to understand. We'll discuss these below.

What Does a Cath Lab Do?

Cardiac Cath focuses on seeing and monitoring the anatomical structures of a patient's heart and major blood vessels– assessing blood flow, monitoring valve function, searching for blockages, etc. Many heart conditions can be diagnosed through the use of cardiac cath.

What Does an EP Lab Do?

Instead of looking at anatomy and blood flow in and around the heart, EP focuses on examining and mapping the electrical system within the heart.

If a patient is suffering from cardiac arrhythmia, an EP study can be performed to determine the location of the electrical “misfire” within the heart. The misfire can then be fixed by implanting a pacemaker or defibrillator, or by using an ablation procedure.

Ancillary Cath Lab Equipment

While both Cath lab equipment types require ancillary equipment in the room to perform studies (injectors, hemodynamic monitoring, etc.), an EP lab requires a specific, additional subset of equipment. Items like a 3D mapping system, cardiac stimulator, RF generator, and combo lab can all be found in EP-oriented lab setups.

Because of all the added equipment, an EP lab often requires more carts, more counter space, and more monitors. EP labs may also require a more comprehensive cable management strategy to keep the room safe and navigable for the docs and techs moving around in it.

Cath Lab Designation

Because of the procedural and equipment differences, facilities that perform both cardiac Cath and EP studies typically have a team of staff members that assists physicians with cardiac catheterization. From that team, they create a second, smaller team with additional training to assist in the EP specialty.

If you're in the market for a multi-use Cath lab system, bear in mind that it may be necessary to plan for staff training on top of the new equipment.

The Takeaway

Whether you intend to use your system for cardiac catheterization or electrophysiology, you can shop around for the same small-detector Cath lab unit for both. On the other hand, because more ancillary equipment is needed to get an EP lab up and running, you can expect to spend quite a bit more on the front end of your investment.

Our team works with healthcare professionals every day to answer questions about which Cath lab will best suit their needs. Visit our learning center for more Cath lab resources, or contact us today to start your Cath lab project.

Picture of Kenn Dextrom

Kenn Dextrom

Kenn Dextrom is the Director of Product Manager at Block Imaging. He aims to provide clear direction and careful planning for Interventional Cath Lab buyers and working with the Block Imaging product team to provide excellent solutions for our customers. Out of the office, he spends most of his time keeping up with his wife and their three energetic sons.