What's an Electrocardiogram (EKG) Test?

EKG is an effective diagnostic tool that can help in the diagnosis of various heart problems. To know what an EKG shows, one must know it’s basic finding. Learn here!

A number of heart conditions can influence the electrical conductance of your heart by interrupting the normal circuitry and rhythm cycles. An ECG/ EKG which is short for electrocardiogram, which assists in detecting the heart problems by measuring the changes in the electrical conductivity across your cardiac tissue that is responsible for pumping action of heart. So what does an EKG tell youor your doctor? It aids in diagnosing the cardiac arrests and attacks that are either in progress or have already happened earlier in life. A simple comparison between the old and the current EKG will do wonders in all such cases by modifying the course of treatment.

What Is an EKG?

It is a diagnostic tool to evaluate the functioning of the heart. Every heart beat results from the stimulation of an electrical impulse that originates from the upper right chamber of heart, the SA node. EKG records the electrical impulse that travels through the heart chambers. The EKG may be used to study the patterns between the rhythm of heart and the heartbeats in order to make the correct diagnosis about the heart conditions.

EKG is a non-invasive, painless diagnostic technique that can be used to diagnose various types of heart conditions.

What Does an EKG Show?

So what does an EKG tell you? Given below are the findings of an EKG test:

  • It can tell if there is deficient blood flow to the muscles of heart i.e. coronary heart disease
  • It can tell if the heartbeat is too slow, too fast or irregular i.e. arrhythmia
  • It can tell about the incomplete pumping of blood in heart i.e. heart failure
  • It can tell if the heart muscles are thicker than normal or if the heart is bigger than the normal size i.e. cardiomyopathy
  • It can tell about birth defects in heart i.e. congenital heart defects
  • It can tell if the valves of heart aren’t functioning properly i.e. heart valve disease
  • It can tell about the sac that encloses the heart i.e. pericarditis
  • It can tell if the electrical signals are taking more than the usual time to travel through the heart i.e. elevated QT syndrome or heart block

An EKG displays the electrical conductance of heart on the monitor that clues the doctor regarding the voltages that are included in the beating of the heart. In case of chest pain, doctors prefer EKG for the evaluation as they can help pinpoint the changes that lead to a proceeding heart attack and hypoxia (lack of oxygen supply) to specific areas of the heart. As a result disturbance is detected in the electrical conductance through these areas.

How Is an EKG Done?

An EKG test is often done in the hospital or at the clinic of the concerned health professional as the equipment is usually portable. In a hospital setting, heart is constantly being monitored on an EKG system. The procedure requires the patient to lie on the bed or a table. Many areas from the chest, legs and arms are shaved and cleaned to get a smooth surface for the attachment of the electrodes that are part of the EKG system. Then these electrodes are attached to the smooth surfaces of the skin. These electrodes are joined to a machine that traces the activity of the heart on a special paper. The patient need to lie still and breathe in and out normally until the test is over. At times the patient might get asked to hold his breath. Talking during the test is usually not recommended. The procedure usually consumes 5-10 minutes after the completion of which the electrodes are removed.

The electrodes when placed over the smooth skin, may feel cool. Careful removal of electrodes is required as they may pull along the skin a little bit.

Are There Side Effects?

Since it’s a painless procedure, most of the times there are no risks related to this test and, that’s why it’s considered safe. The electrodes are only used to get the trace of the functioning of heart on a paper, no current passes through them which eliminate all sorts of chances for electric shock.

How to Interpret EKG Test Results

As already mentioned above, EKG gives a tracing on the paper regarding the electrical conductance of heart. The dips and spikes obtained on the paper along the line tracing are called the waves. The healthcare provider or the doctor or the cardiologist will be able to read the results of the EKG. The dips and spikes tell about the electrical activity in various areas of heart. Given below is a simple way to tell about what does an EKG show:

  • Normal: the tracing appears to be normal and the heartbeat follows the normal rhythm i.e. from 60-100 bpm (beats per minute)
  • Abnormal: the tracing doesn’t appear to be normal and the heart rhythm is irregular. Heartbeats may be too slow i.e. less than 60bpm, or too fast I.e. more than 100bpm

Fast beating of heart is termed as tachycardia whereas slow beating of heart is termed as bradycardia. The irregular rhythms may be a sign of any type of arrhythmia. These conditions result from malfunctioning of electrical conductance system in any part of the heart. Medicines like amphetamines, psychotropic drugs and beta blockers may also lead to cardiac arrhythmias.

EKG results can at times be helpful in showing the evidence of progressing or previous heart attack. The interpretation of an ECG test may be helpful in determining which part of the heart has undergone damage and its precise extent so that the treatment may be done accordingly.  Chest pain related to angina (stable or unstable) can also be evaluated using the EKG test. The findings may also tell about the birth defects or sepal defects or about the left ventricular hypertrophy of heart if the patient has any of these conditions. 

What does an EKG show? Now you have a better idea.

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