An electrocardiogram, also called an EKG, 12-lead ECG, or EKG, is a noninvasive diagnostic test that tests your heart's electrical system for heart disease. It uses flat metal electrodes that are placed on your chest to detect the electrical activity of your heart as it beats, which is then displayed on a graph.
Your healthcare provider can analyze patterns to better understand your heart rate and heart rate , identify some types of structural heart disease, and assess cardiac performance.
Purpose of the ECG test
The ECG detects the electrical rhythm of your heart and produces what is called a recording that looks like wavy lines. This tracing consists of representations of several waves that repeat with each beat of the heart, approximately 60 to 100 times per minute. The wave pattern must have a consistent shape. If your waves are inconsistent or don't look like standard waves, this is a sign of heart disease.
There are many characteristic changes that occur with various heart problems, and your healthcare provider can look at your ECG curves to see if they indicate certain types of heart disease.
Many healthcare providers order an EKG as part of their annual checkup for heart disease. This may apply to you if:
- In the past, you have had heart disease or other heart problems.
- You have a medical condition that predisposes you to heart disease, such as hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol, or an inflammatory condition.
- You have other major risk factors for heart disease .
An EKG may also be recommended if you have signs or symptoms of heart disease, such as chest pain, shortness of breath, heart palpitations, dizziness, or fainting. Similarly, if you have signs of a TIA or stroke , such as vision changes, numbness, weakness, or communication problems, you may also need an EKG because certain types of heart disease can cause a stroke .
If you have heart disease, you may need regular ECG tests to assess whether your condition is worsening and to monitor the healing effects of your heart medications.
An ECG is also required before any heart surgery, including surgery to insert a pacemaker. A preoperative ECG is also required before any surgical procedure that involves general anesthesia, as heart disease increases the risk of anesthesia side effects. The exam also helps your anesthesiologists with anesthesia scheduling and surgical monitoring.
There are a number of conditions that can be detected when your doctor checks your pulse, such as tachycardia (fast heartbeat), bradycardia (slow heartbeat), and arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat). ECG waveforms can confirm these changes in your heart rate, and certain waveform changes provide information about a specific type of heart disease and which area of the heart is affected.
The ECG is one of the most widely used tests in medicine because it can detect a wide range of heart conditions, the machines are available in most healthcare settings, and the test is easy to perform, safe, and relatively inexpensive.
However, the ECG has its limitations:
- The ECG reveals the heart rate and rhythm for only a few seconds, necessary to record the recording. If an arrhythmia (an abnormal heart rhythm) occurs only intermittently, the ECG may not be able to detect it and ambulatory monitoring is required.
- An EKG is usually normal or near normal in many types of heart disease, such as coronary artery disease .
- Sometimes the abnormalities that appear on the ECG, after a complete examination, are of no medical importance.
Risks and contraindications.
The ECG is a safe test that does not cause health complications. There are no medical conditions associated with ECG risks or side effects.
Before the ECG test
If your doctor or cardiologist orders an ECG, you usually don't need any special tests or procedures to prepare for it. In fact, you can do it right in your healthcare provider's office if you have the time, space, and equipment. Sometimes, depending on the reason for your EKG, your healthcare provider may ask you to stop taking certain medications a day or two before the test.
If you have an ECG during your doctor's appointment, you will need another 10-15 minutes for the exam. If you are having a special EKG visit, you should expect it to take longer due to the registration and registration process.
An EKG is often done in a healthcare provider's office, sometimes in the same office where you visit your doctor. Your PCP's clinic may have a separate area where a test may need to be done.
What to wear
You will need to put on a hospital gown to be able to place the electrodes on your chest. You may be asked to remove large necklaces or chains if they dangle or get in the way, but you don't need to worry about electrical interference from metal jewelry.
Food and drink
You can eat or drink whatever you want before the test. If your healthcare provider is concerned that you have a particularly fast heart rate, they may ask you to abstain from caffeine for 6 to 10 hours before the test.
Cost and health insurance
ECGs are generally covered by most health insurance plans, but there are always exceptions. If you are insured and you are concerned that your plan will not cover the test, or if you have a minimum coverage plan, you can verify your benefits in advance. As with many other procedures, your plan may also require you to pay a copayment, and you can find out by calling the number on your insurance card.
When you go to have an EKG, you should bring your test order form (if applicable), your health insurance card, identification, and method of payment.
During the exam
Your test will be done by a healthcare provider, nurse, or technician.
You will be asked to change into a hospital gown and lie down on the exam table.
After installation, only 10 electrodes are attached with sticky but easy to remove glue. One electrode is placed on each arm and leg and six on the chest.
Throughout the test
Each electrode is a flat, coin-shaped plate with leads connected to an EKG machine that looks like a computer. The electrodes detect the electrical activity produced by the heart and transmit this information to the machine, where it is processed and stored electronically or printed as an ECG record.
The reading will last about five minutes. During this time, you will be asked to stay in place, as movement can disrupt the pattern. This test does not cause pain or discomfort.
After testing, the electrodes are removed. If any sticky material remains, it can be easily cleaned with an alcohol wipe. You may feel some hair pulling under knots, but technicians are generally very careful when removing them.
You shouldn't expect any side effects after the ECG and there are no restrictions on your activity.
In rare cases, the adhesive can cause allergic reactions or rashes, which may not appear until 24 hours after the test. If you develop a rash in the electrode area, call your doctor.
Interpretation of ECG results
The electrical signals generated by the electrodes are processed to produce electrical activity from the heart at 12 different angles, each shown separately. By examining any abnormalities on the ECG and the leads from which they originate, your healthcare professional can gain important information about your heart. Learning to read the ECG and recognize these patterns takes months of training and practice.
A trace consists of waves repeated in a standard way. The waves have sections called the P wave, QRS complex, ST segment, and T wave. There is also a PR interval between the P wave and the QRS complex and a QT interval between the QRS complex and the T wave.
Different conditions are associated with changes in the height, width and length of these waves and the intervals between them. For example, a shortened QT interval can be a sign of high blood calcium levels.
Your ECG report may contain a description of the waveform, but it is unlikely that it will describe the condition of your heart in detail. Your healthcare provider should consider your symptoms and medical history when determining whether you have heart disease.
Your healthcare professional will be able to explain your results to you. Among other things, an ECG can indicate:
- Cardiac arrhythmias such as premature ventricular beats or atrial fibrillation
- Do you have conduction disorders that result from problems associated with the propagation of an electrical impulse through the heart (for example, with a blocking bundle of the His bundle)?
- Signs of a previous or previous myocardial infarction (heart attack)
- Do you have signs of severe coronary artery disease (CHD) , such as stable or unstable angina?
- If the heart muscle thickens abnormally, as in hypertrophic cardiomyopathy .
- Signs of congenital electrical abnormalities such as Brugada syndrome
- An electrolyte imbalance, especially high or low levels of potassium, calcium, or magnesium.
- Congenital (birth) heart defects
- Infections that affect the heart, such as pericarditis, which is an infection of the protective tissue that surrounds the heart.
Although the ECG can accurately diagnose some heart conditions , such as cardiac arrhythmias, it is most commonly used as a screening test. Consequently, abnormalities seen on the ECG often require more precise analysis to make an accurate diagnosis.
For example, if an EKG indicates possible coronary artery disease, a stress test or cardiac catheterization may be required. If ventricular hypertrophy is seen, an echocardiogram is often required to detect conditions such as aortic stenosis or other structural abnormalities.
Frequently asked questions
What is the difference between an EKG and an echocardiogram?
An EKG is a test done by placing electrodes on your chest, arms, and legs to record the activity of your heart. This test is used to detect irregular heartbeats and damage to heart muscle or tissue. An echocardiogram uses high-frequency sound waves to photograph the heart and is used to see how well the heart pumps blood and blood clots, among other things.
How is the electrocardiogram (ECG) performed in women?
Electrocardiograms are performed in the same way regardless of gender. Electrodes are placed on the chest, arms, and legs, and the electrical activity of the heart is recorded on a graph. However, the results are interpreted differently in women due to the fact that women have a higher initial heart rate and other differences in heart rate than men.
How do you read an EKG or EKG?
The electrical signals generated by the electrodes are processed to produce electrical activity from the heart at 12 different angles, each displaying a separate waveform. Different conditions are associated with a change in the height, width and length of these waves.
Get the word of drug information
If you have an ECG as a routine test or due to symptoms, it is recommended that you inform your healthcare providers of any previous ECGs and keep the records so that they can be shown to your healthcare providers for follow-up tests. This can allow your healthcare providers to compare and track changes over time. Please note that this test is very common and that your healthcare professional's recommendation is not confirmation that you have heart problems.