An electrocardiogram, which is also known as an EKG or ECG, is a test used to check for abnormalities in the heart’s electrical activity. The heart has a natural electrical system that makes it contract.
What Does the Test Involve?
The electrocardiogram is usually given as part of physical exam, and it is an outpatient procedure. The procedure is relatively comfortable, so the patient will not need anesthetic. The patient will lie on a table or bed, and a technician will clean certain areas on the arms, legs and chest. They will then use a paste to attach electrodes to those areas. The electrodes are hooked to a machine that traces the heart’s electrical activity onto paper in the form of waves.
The patient will have to keep still and not talk during the EKG. They may be asked to breathe deeply or hold their breath at some point; otherwise, they should breathe normally. The electrocardiogram takes around five or ten minutes.
Why Do People Get EKGs?
The doctor might order an electrocardiogram if any of the following is true:
• The patient has chest pain that might be caused by a heart attack, angina or inflammation of the heart
• The patient is showing other symptoms of heart disease, like irregular heartbeats, shortness of breath or fainting
• The patient has a pacemaker or similar device, and the doctor needs to check how well it is working
• The doctor wants to see if the patient has an enlarged heart
• The patient has a family history of early heart disease
• The patient has a condition like diabetes or high blood pressure that can affect the heart
What Do the Dips and Spikes Mean?
The electrocardiogram measures the electrical impulses that govern the rhythm of the patient’s heartbeats. The different spikes and dips are called waves, and each set of waves indicates a single heartbeat.
The P wave is a small mound that indicates electrical activity in the atria or upper chambers. The QRS complex is a large spike that indicates electrical activity in the ventricles or lower chambers. The ST segment is a line that shows the ventricle is contracting. The T wave is a small mound that indicates the ventricles are preparing for their next contraction.
In a healthy patient, the various waves will be consistent, and there will be 60 to 100 beats per minute. Irregular heartbeats or abnormally slow or fast heartbeats indicate heart disease and will produce abnormal results in the electrocardiogram.
Does Everybody Need an EKG?
No. Healthy people who have no symptoms of heart disease and no family history of early heart disease do not need to have an EKG. Even people who have heart disease may not need an EKG if they have not experienced any changes in their symptoms since the last EKG.
During a consultation at Cardiology Consultants of Southwest Florida in Fort Myers, our team of well-trained experts can help you determine if an electrocardiogram can benefit you. Contact us today to schedule your appointment.