What Is An Electrocardiogram (EKG)
An EKG or Electrocardiogram is a very common cardiac evaluation procedure. This simple and painless procedure shows your doctor a record of electrical impulses in the cardiac system. There are several different kinds of EKGs that your doctor may perform including a 12-lead EKG/ECG which records electrical activity from 12 separate locations around the body at once.
When you have a heartbeat, electrical impulses are spread throughout the cardiovascular system. As it travels, it signals your heart to pump blood throughout the body. This process repeats over and over with every single heartbeat thus creating the rhythm. An EKG is performed to understand the following:
- How fast your heart is beating
- If the rhythm is regular
- The strength and time in between each beat
EKG results help diagnose problems like heart attack, arrhythmia, and heart failure. EKG results also can suggest other disorders that affect heart function.
When Is An Electrocardiogram or EKG used?
Certain symptoms can clue your cardiologist into the need for an EKG. Those may include:
- Chest pain
- Heart pounding, racing, or fluttering, or the sense that your heart is beating unevenly
- Problems breathing
- Feeling tired and weak
- Unusual heart sounds when your doctor listens to your heartbeat
They can also be used to determine how well a pacemaker is performing.
How Do I Prepare For An EKG?
Because this is such a simple procedure, there is no special preparation unless otherwise indicated by your doctor. Just be sure to disclose all medications and supplements you may be using before the test is performed in case they affect your heart beat.
The image above shows the standard layout of an EKG. A heartbeat recording machine is attached to your body via electrodes placed on the body or chest. A nurse will oversee the procedure and the results will be looked over by your cardiologist.
What Happens During an Electrocardiogram?
A technician attaches soft, sticky patches called electrodes to the skin of your chest, arms, and legs. The patches are about the size of a quarter. Typically, 12 patches are attached to detect your heart’s electrical activity from many angles. To help the patches stick, the technician may have to shave areas of your skin. After the patches are placed on your skin, you lie still on a table while the patches detect your heart’s electrical signals. A machine records these signals on graph paper or displays them on a screen. The entire test takes about 10 minutes.
If you feel you have any of the symptoms listed above visit your cardiologist. They will recommend the right test for your needs.