Each heart beat is triggered by an electrical impulse that originates in the right upper chamber of the heart and moves through channels called nerves to the lower chambers and then throughout the heart. This nerve impulses cause the heart muscle to contract resulting in the pumping action of the heart.
An EKG or ECG, short for Electrocardiography is a recording of the electrical activity of the heart recorded as line tracings on a strip of paper, and is a useful test to check for problems with the electrical system of the heart.
Simply put, it is a graphic representation of the electrical activity within the heart that triggers it to rhythmically pump blood throughout the body. It tells the doctor that the electrical impulses that originate in your heart take the desired course and in a predictable rhythm, while also letting him/her know if it is the source of your heartache!
How is an EKG recorded?
An EKG takes 10 to 15 minutes of your time to record important details of your heart in a human readable format. Electrodes, which are small sticky patches, are placed in predetermined areas on the front of the chest wall and all four limbs while you lie still and flat. These electrodes are connected to a recording device that receives the electrical impulses transmitted from the heart across the chest wall. These electrical impulses are recorded on a special paper as waves.
When should you undergo an EKG?
If you have any of the following symptoms or employment/insurance requirements, you might as well have your heart examined and an EKG might be in order as well:
- If you have an unexplained tightness or heaviness of chest suggestive of a heart attack
- If you have an irregular pulse or that you have an unpleasant sensation of your heart beat, commonly termed as palpitation
- If you feel dizzy or have fainting episodes or easily feel breathless
- If anyone in your family has a heart ailment
- If you have risk factors for heart disease such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, cigarette smoking, diabetes or a predisposition to early heart disease in the family
- If a doctor finds abnormal heart sounds during a regular examination
- If you are doing a pre-insurance or pre-employment work-up
Finally, what does the EKG tell the Doctor about You and Your Heart?
The EKG is probably one of the most basic and the most important test when it comes to your heart. It gives the doctor the necessary foundation to the correct diagnosis of your heart condition. However, the EKG is not a perfect tool, while also requiring trained personnel to interpret it; it is a quintessential test for the cardiologist and requires a maximum of 15 minutes of your time.
So, here is a list of some of the heart diseases that the EKG helps to diagnose and monitor:
- EKG aids the diagnosis of Coronary Artery Disease, commonly known as a heart attack or MI
- It is used as a tool for monitoring the progress of or resolution of heart attacks
- It is instrumental in the diagnosis of irregularities of heart rhythm such as absent or missed beats, extra beats, and other arrhythmias of the heart like atrial or ventricular bradycardia, tachycardia and fibrillation.
- The EKG also shows any blocks in the electrical system of the heart.
- It can tell you about an enlarged heart caused by hypertension, viral infection or a birth defect in the heart.
- It can also tell you about the presence of swelling in the covering of the heart or presence of extra fluid just outside the heart.
- It is an important tool in the diagnosis of pulmonary embolism, or a clot in the lung blood vessels.
- It tells you if your heart is pumping forcefully enough or not (heart failure)
- It tells if the valves of your heart are functioning adequately enough
What Type of EKG Machine should You Use?
Mostly, this decision is the prerogative of the physician or availability at the hospital, but your ailment might aid the choice of any particular type of EKG Machine.
EKG machines today even have an interpretative component, which help laypersons to identify common ailments. But, a doctor’s consult is of the utmost significance when it comes to heart diseases and EKG interpretation.