All About EKG Tests
Heart health is critical to having a long, comfortable life. While most people know exactly what to do to promote heart health such as avoiding saturated fats, getting regular exercise, etc., not everybody knows what to do when they experience unfamiliar chest pain.
The truth of the matter is that chest pains of all kinds or experiencing difficulty breathing should be addressed without delay. Depending on the severity of the discomfort, it may be advisable to visit our urgent care center for your EKG test.
What is an EKG Test?
EKG is an abbreviation for electrocardiogram, which is a measurement of the heart’s electrical activity. It is a non-invasive test for measuring the heart’s electrical signals through small electrodes placed at various places on the skin. The test is used to identify any problems with the heart’s electrical activity.
The heart has a natural electrical system that causes the chambers to contract thus pumping blood throughout the body. In case the electrical system is not working as it should, you can suffer from a number of health-related issues.
EKG Tests and the Heart’s Electrical System
The special cells in the heart that generate electricity are responsible for the heart beating. The cells produce electrical impulses in the pacemaker cells that are spread over the heart and cause its contraction.
The natural pacemaker of the heart is known as the sinoatrial (SA) node. The heart also has special fibers responsible for carrying electrical signals from the sinoatrial node to the rest of the heart.
While any electrical tissue in the heart is capable of generating an electrical impulse and act as a pacemaker, the sinoatrial node does it the fastest and is usually in control. If the sinoatrial node fails, the rest of the parts of the electrical system can take over, but at a slower rate.
The pacemaker cells might be responsible for creating the electrical system responsible for the heart’s beating, but it is the autonomic nervous system (ANS) that can change the strength and pulse rate of the contractions of the heart. The ANS includes the parasympathetic nervous system as well as the sympathetic nervous system.
The sympathetic nerves are responsible for increasing the heart rate and increasing the force of contraction while the parasympathetic nerves do the exact opposite. All the activity creates measurable electrical waves. The measurement is usually represented as a graph referred to as an electrocardiogram (EKG).
The EKG shows the electrical activity of the heart and labels 2 key phases:
– The P-Wave coincides with the spread of electrical activity over the atria as well as the start of their contraction.
– The QRS complex coincides with the spread of electric activity over the ventricles and the start of their contraction
– The T-Wave coincides with the ventricles’ recovery phase.
Why is the Electrocardiogram Abbreviated as EKG?
One question in the minds of many people is why the electrocardiogram’s abbreviation is EKG rather than ECG. The reason for this being that ECG sounds almost the same as EEG, which is an abbreviation for electroencephalogram, a test for measuring the brain’s electrical activity. To avoid confusion, the convention became to use the abbreviation for the German spelling of electrocardiogram �” elekrtokardiogramm for the heart test, which is the reason why it is known as EKG.
Why Should You Get an EKG?
You can have an EKG for several good reasons. If you suffer from unexplained dizziness, chest pain, or have difficulty breathing, an EKG might be performed to help identify the potential cause. If you have had a device such as a pacemaker installed recently or have added or changed medications that affect the heart, the EKG may be performed to assess how the heart is reacting to the changes.
An EKG is a cost-effective and simple way to detect various potential heart problems. It is also quite quick with testing typically being complete in less than 5 minutes. EKG test help doctors determine whether the patient has a normal heartbeat, has recently had a heart attack, or he/she has an irregular heartbeat.
EKG tests are used to test for conditions such as:
– Heart disease
– Cardiac stress
– Blood flow or chest pain problems
– Abnormal heartbeat
Who Should Get an EKG Done?
EKG tests are typically given to those that have certain risk factors or experience certain symptoms. The following is a list of the people likely to benefit the most from receiving an EKG. If unsure, you should consult with a competent medical professional. You may require an EKG if:
– You have a history of heart disease in your family
– You are experiencing chest pain
– You have previously suffered from a heart attack
– You have certain risk factors such as being overweight, a smoker, having diabetes, etc.
How to Prepare for Your EKG?
It is important to let your doctor know of any medications that you take regularly including over-the-counter medication and prescription drugs before you have your EKG. It is important for the doctor to be aware of any medication that may affect the results of the EKG.
Besides that, you don’t have to do much to prepare for your EKG. While some doctors advise against participating in vigorous exercise before you have your EKG, this is not universally accepted. It is advisable to consult your doctor if your have any particular questions about preparing for your EKG.
What Can You Expect During the Procedure?
The EKG is a test performed using a machine to measure the electrical activity of the heart. The measurements are recorded in a series of lines similar to those seen on lie detector tests or for measuring earthquakes. The lines are indicators of the electrical activity of the heart.
The lines create a regular pattern in a healthy heart. The call for an EKG usually precipitates a diagnosis of an irregular heartbeat. The doctors can then move on to discovering the cause. A patient that gets an EKG should know that this harmless procedure takes between 5 and 10 minutes.
The first thing to do when having an EKG is to remove your top as well as all metallic objects and jewelry including underwire bras for women. You will then be asked to put on a paper gown and lay down on the examination bed.
The doctor will then attach small circled stickers that have electrodes to the smooth surfaces of your chest and limbs to monitor the heart’s activity during the test. Small patches of hair may be shaved for the very hairy individuals to ensure smooth contact.
Once the test is ready, it should be painless and takes just a few minutes. You need to ensure that you lie perfectly still and that the temperature is comfortable. Moving around or shivering can affect the results of the test, but the doctor will discuss this with you.
Getting Your EKG at our Medical Clinic
If you feel that you are in need of an EKG, you should visit our clinic with modern, state-of-the-art EKG equipment. EKG tests are part of our immediate care services and it is always our goal to allow you in and out the door within just a few minutes.
We are a more convenient and faster alternative to emergency room visits for non-life-threatening illnesses or injuries. If you do require advanced care or testing from a specialist, we can save you the expense and time by calling ahead to set up an appointment for you.