Test Details & Preparation
An electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG) is a test that checks for problems with the electrical activity of your heart. An EKG shows the heart's electrical activity as line tracings on paper. The spikes and dips in the tracings are called waves.
The heart is a muscular pump made up of four chambers. The two upper chambers are called atria. The two lower chambers are called ventricles. A natural electrical system causes the heart muscle to contract. This pumps blood through the heart to the lungs and the rest of the body.
An electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG) is done to check the heart's electrical activity find the cause of unexplained chest pain or pressure. This could be caused by a heart attack, inflammation of the sac surrounding the heart or angina find the cause of symptoms of heart disease. Symptoms include shortness of breath, dizziness, fainting, and heartbeats that are rapid and irregular find out if the walls of the heart chambers are too thick and so on.
Be sure to tell your doctor about all the medicines you take, even over-the-counter ones. Many medicines can change the results of this test. If you take heart medicines, your doctor will tell you how to take your medicines before you have this test. Remove all jewellery from your neck, arms, and wrists. Men are usually bare-chested during the test.
A normal electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG) result means that the heart beats in a regular rhythm, usually between 60 and 100 beats per minute and the tracing looks normal.
An abnormal electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG) result means that the heart beats too slow (such as less than 60 beats per minute) the heart beats too fast (such as more than 100 beats per minute) the heart rhythm is not regular and the tracing does not look normal.
Specialized ECG tests:
- An exercise tolerance test (ETT) involves two ECG scans, one when you are exercising and one when you are resting. Some heart problems only appear when your heart needs to work harder. This test helps to show how your heart copes under stress.
- A cardiac holter monitoring test is used to identify any heart rhythm problems. For this test you wear a small, portable ECG machine for 24 or 48 hours and during this time your heart rate and rhythm are recorded.
- Event monitoring is used to record your heartbeat when you experience symptoms such as dizziness, black outs, chest pain or palpitations. When you experience symptoms, you will need to press a button to start the recording.
A doctor may recommend an ECG for people who may be at risk of heart disease because there is a family history of heart disease or because they smoke, are overweight, or have diabetes, high cholesterol or high blood pressure.
They may also recommend an ECG if a person is experiencing symptoms such as:
- chest pain
- shortness of breath
- fainting, or
- Fast or irregular heartbeats (palpitations).
ECGs are often performed to monitor the health of people who have been diagnosed with heart problems, to help assess artificial cardiac pacemakers
or to monitor the effects of certain medications on the heart.