Heart Attack and Cardiac Arrest

What is an Electrocardiogram (ECG)?

Last updated on October 20th, 2022 at 08:01 am

An electrocardiogram (ECG) is a test used to diagnose heart disease. It measures electrical activity in the heart using electrodes placed on the skin.

ECGs are often performed as part of a physical examination or when there is concern about cardiac problems. They may be done during sleep, while awake, or both.

What is an electrocardiogram?

An ECG is to check for signs of heart disease. Also called EKG.

It’s a test that records the electrical activity of your ticker through small electrode patches a technician attaches to the skin of your chest, arms, and legs.

Why the one need electrocardiogram test?

ECGs are quick, safe, and painless. With this test, your doctor will be able to:

  • Check your heart rhythm
  • See if you have poor blood flow to your heart muscle (this is called ischemia)
  • Diagnose a heart attack
  • Check on things that are abnormal, such as thickened heart muscle

Electrocardiogram test preparations

  • Avoid oily or greasy skin creams and lotions the day of the test because they can keep the electrodes from contacting your skin.
  • Avoid full-length hosiery, because electrodes need to be positioned on your legs.
  • Wear a shirt that you can remove easily to place the leads on your chest.
  • Don’t wear ornaments
  • Don’t hold or wear electronic devices like a smartwatch, mobile phone
  • Don’t hold or wear any metals like an iron belt buckle

Electrocardiogram test procedure

A technician will attach 10 electrodes with adhesive pads to the skin of your chest, arms, and legs. If you’re a guy, you may need to have your chest hair shaved to allow a better connection.

During the test, you’ll lie flat while a computer creates a picture, on graph paper, of the electrical impulses that move through your heart. This is called a “resting” ECG, although the same test may check your heart while you exercise.

It takes about 10 minutes to attach the electrodes and complete the test, but the actual recording takes only a few seconds.

Your doctor will keep your ECG patterns on file so that he can compare them to tests you get in the future.

Types of electrocardiogram test

The three major types of ECG are:

  • Resting ECG: you lie down for this type of ECG. No movement is allowed during the test, as electrical impulses generated by other muscles may interfere with those generated by your heart. This type of ECG usually takes 5 to 10 minutes.
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  • Ambulatory ECG: if you have an ambulatory or Holter ECG, you wear a portable recording device for at least 24 hours. You are free to move around normally while the monitor is attached. This type of ECG is used for people whose symptoms are intermittent (stop-start) and may not show up on a resting ECG, and for people recovering from heart attack to ensure that their heart is functioning properly. You record your symptoms in a diary and note when they occur so that your own experience can be compared with the ECG.
  • Cardiac stress test: this test is used to record your ECG while you ride on an exercise bike or walk on a treadmill. This type of ECG takes about 15 to 30 minutes to complete.

Besides the standard or other ECG types, your doctor may recommend

Event monitor. Your doctor may suggest this device if you only get symptoms now and then. When you push a button, it will record and store your heart’s electrical activity for a few minutes. You may need to wear it for weeks or sometimes months.

Each time you notice symptoms, try to get a reading on the monitor. The info is sent on the phone to your doctor, who will analyze it.

Signal-averaged electrocardiogram. It checks to see if you’re at high risk of getting a condition called heart arrhythmia, which can lead to cardiac arrest. The test is done similarly to a standard ECG, but it uses sophisticated technology to analyze your risk.

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Potential complications of an electrocardiogram

The ECG is a safe procedure with no known risks. It does not send an electric current to the body. Some people may be allergic or sensitive to the electrodes, which can cause local skin reddening.

Note: We don’t know handheld or portable ECG device testing.

Other diagnostic tests for heart problems

Other tests that help diagnose heart problems include:

  • Physical examination
  • Chest x-rays
  • Echocardiogram or 2D Echo (ultrasound of the heart)
  • Magnetic resonance imaging or MRI
  • Computerized tomography (CT) scans of the chest
  • Blood tests
  • Cardiac catheterisation (insertion of a catheter through the blood vessels of the groin or wrist into the heart).

Differences between Electrocardiogram vs Electrocardiograph

An electrocardiogram or electrocardiograph (ECG or EKG) is the same thing. An EKG is a test that examines the heart function by measuring the electrical activity of the heart. With each heartbeat, an electrical impulse (or wave) travels through the heart. This wave causes the muscle to squeeze and pump blood from the heart. An electrocardiogram measures and records the electrical activity that passes through the heart. Based on the electrocardiogram, the doctor determines whether the electrical activity of the heart is normal or irregular.

The discrepancy between the two terms and abbreviations comes in part from German. Electrocardiogram (ECG) is an English word, whereas electrocardiogram (EKG) is a German word.

What is the pacemaker?

A permanent pacemaker (PPM) is an electronic device surgically placed in the chest wall in which a lead courses through the subclavian vein into the right heart. The lead can detect atrial and/or ventricular depolarizations and then deliver a small voltage impulse to cause depolarization if the heart rate decreases below a predetermined threshold, usually 60 beats per minute. This effectively prevents the heart from ever becoming bradycardic.

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Source: Hopkins

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