Information Regarding Electrocardiogram (EKG) Test
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Synopsis and Key Points:
Article provides information on the electrocardiogram exam and the reasons one may be requested and performed.
Main DigestAn electrocardiogram, also referred to as an, 'EKG,' or, 'ECG,' test is one that checks for issues with the electrical activity of a person's heart. An EKG translates the electrical activity of a person's heart into line tracings on paper. The dips and spikes in the line tracings are referred to as, 'waves.'
Your heart is a muscular pump made up of 4 chambers. The 2 upper chambers are called, 'atria,' and the 2 lower chambers are called, 'ventricles.' A natural electrical system causes your heart muscle to contract and pump blood through your heart to your lungs and the remainder of your body.
Why an EKG is Performed
An electrocardiogram (EKG) is performed for a number of reasons. For example; an EKG checks your heart's electrical activity. The test may find out the cause of unexplained chest pain which might be caused by:
- A heart attack
- Inflammation of the sac surrounding your heart
Chart presenting reasons why a person may not be able to receive an EKG, or why it may not be helpful
The test may find the cause of symptoms of heart disease such as dizziness, fainting, shortness of breath, or rapid and irregular heartbeats. It can find out if the walls of your heart chamber are too thick, and check to find out how well your medications are working or whether they are causing side-effects that affect your heart. An EKG can check to find out how well mechanical devices that are implanted in a person's heart, such as pacemakers, are working to control a person's heartbeat. The test can also check the health of a person's heart when other conditions or diseases are present such as:
- High cholesterol
- Cigarette smoking
- High blood pressure
- A family history of early heart disease
Preparing for an Electrocardiogram (EKG)
A number of medications have the potential to change the results of an EKG. Make sure to inform your doctor about all of the prescription and nonprescription medications you currently take. If you take heart medications, your doctor will tell you how to take your medications prior to having an EKG test performed.
Remove all of your jewelry from your wrists, arms and neck. While men are usually bare-chested during an EKG, women often times wear a bra, T-shirt, or a gown. You will be provided with a cloth or a paper covering to use during the test.
How an EKG is Performed
An electrocardiogram (EKG) is commonly performed by a health care professional and the results are interpreted by one of a number of kinds of health care professionals. These professionals may include:
- A surgeon
- An internist
- A cardiologist
- An anesthesiologist
- An electro-physiologist
- Your family medicine doctor
You might receive an EKG as a portion of a physical examination at your health care professional's office, or during a series of tests performed at a clinic or hospital. EKG equipment is often times portable, so the test may be performed nearly anywhere. If you are in the hospital, your heart might be continuously monitored by an EKG system - the process is referred to as, 'Telemetry.' During an EKG test:
1) You will be asked to lie on a table or a bed. Areas on your arms, legs, and chest where small metal discs will be placed are cleaned and might be shaved to provide a clean and smooth surface to attach the electrode disks. An EKG paste, or small pads soaked in alcohol, may be placed between the electrodes and your skin to improve conduction of the electrical impulses, but in a number of instances disposable electrodes are used that do not require either paste or alcohol.
2) Several electrodes that are attached to the skin on each of your arms and legs and on your chest. The electrodes are connected to a machine that traces your heart activity onto paper. If an older machine is used, the electrodes might be moved at different times during the test to measure your heart's electrical activity from various locations on your chest. After the test is finished, any electrode paste is wiped off.
3) You will be asked to lie still and breathe regularly during the EKG test. At times you might be asked to hold your breath. You should not speak during the test. The test itself usually only takes between 5-10 minutes to finish.
The electrodes might feel cool when they are placed on your chest. If you have a lot of hair on your chest, a small area may need to be shaved in order to place the electrodes. When the electrodes are taken off they may pull your skin a bit.
Are There any Risks Associated with an EKG Test
There is no change of issues while you are having an electrocardiogram (EKG) performed. An EKG is a completely safe test. In most instances there is no reason why you should not be able to receive an EKG test.
The electrodes are used to transfer an image of your heart's electrical activity to a tracing on paper. No electricity whatsoever passes through your body from the machine. There is no danger of receiving an electrical shock during the test.
Chart presenting other diseases or conditions an EKG may be able to assist with
The Results of an EKG
An electrocardiogram (EKG) is a test that checks for issues with the electrical activity of your heart. An EKG translates your heart's electrical activity into line tracings on paper. The dips and spikes in the line tracings are referred to as, 'waves.'
A doctor will examine the pattern of dips and spikes on your electrocardiogram (EKG) to check the electrical activity in different parts of your heart. The dips and spikes are grouped into different sections that represent how your heart is working. Reasons you might not be able to have the test, or why the results may not be helpful, include the following:
- Exercising prior to the test
- Moving or talking during the test
- Being anxious, or breathing very rapidly or deeply
- Not having the electrodes securely attached to your skin
An EKG Test - Points to Ponder
- An EKG does not have the ability to predict whether or not you will experience a heart attack.
- Electrocardiograms are not recommended for people who are considered to be healthy and are not experiencing any symptoms of heart disease.
- At times, doctors automatically schedule routine tests because they believe that is what people expect. Yet experts say routine heart tests may be a waste of time and money.
- At first, an EKG performed during a heart attack might appear average or unchanged from a prior EKG test. The EKG may be repeated over several hours or even days to look for changes.
- Sometimes, your EKG might appear average even when you have heart disease. Due to this, the EKG should always be interpreted along with the symptoms you are experiencing, your past health, a physical examination and - if necessary, additional test results.
- At times, EKG abnormalities may be seen only during exercise, or while a person's symptoms are present. To check for these changes in a person's heartbeat an, 'ambulatory,' EKG or stress EKG might be performed. An ambulatory EKG is a type of portable and continuous EKG monitor.
- A stress EKG is a type of EKG performed while a person exercises. A resting EKG is always performed prior to an exercise EKG test and results of the resting EKG are compared with the results of the exercise EKG. A resting EKG might also show a heart issue that would make an exercise EKG unsafe for a person to endure.
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