As the most commonly performed heart test, an electrocardiogram measures and records the electrical activity of your heart. Also known as an ECG or EKG, this key diagnostic tool provides invaluable and insightful information about the rhythm and function of your heart.
Simply put, an EKG is a “heart tracing” that offers a reliable (if not preliminary) snapshot of your cardiovascular health. Here at ECCA in Manchester and Hartford, Connecticut, we conduct EKGs virtually every day. Here’s what this quick, noninvasive test reveals about your heart.
EKG testing basics
An EKG is a painless and noninvasive test that measures your heart’s electrical efficiency as it beats. As one of the fastest informational or diagnostic heart tests available, EKG testing can usually be completed in just five minutes.
To conduct an EKG test, our team attaches up to 12 small, flat, sticky patches called electrodes at various points on your chest, arms, and legs. The electrodes are connected to a monitor that registers your heart’s electrical activity over the course of the exam.
During standard EKG testing, you lie still on a table as the electrodes detect and transmit the electrical activity of your heart to the monitor. EKG testing may also be used to measure and record your heart’s electrical efficiency under stress and through recovery.
During an EKG stress test, you walk on a treadmill or ride a stationary bike for a few minutes to increase your heart rate. The test measures your heart’s electrical activity as it works harder to support your increased level of activity; testing continues through your recovery until you reach your resting heart rate once again.
Understanding EKG data
The electrical activity of your heart doesn’t just drive your heartbeat, it also sets the rhythm and rate of that beat. A healthy heart usually has a regular beat that’s powered by steady electrical patterns, while a diseased or dysfunctional heart is more likely to have an irregular beat that’s controlled by fast, slow, or erratic electrical patterns.
Every single heartbeat is driven by an electrical impulse, or wave, that causes your heart to contract; each vital contraction keeps blood flowing seamlessly through your body.
An EKG monitors the strength, timing, and efficiency of this wave as it travels through the upper chambers of your heart to the lower chambers. It also monitors the electrical recovery between waves, or your heart’s momentary return to a resting state between each beat.
EKG testing objectives
As a highly dependable diagnostic tool, an EKG is often the first test doctors recommend for patients who are experiencing any of the common signs and symptoms of heart disease, such as intermittent chest pain, persistent breathlessness, ongoing fatigue and weakness, or an irregular, fluttering, or racing heartbeat.
EKGs are also used as a preventive screening tool for patients with a family history of heart disease — having regular EKGs before you develop any worrisome symptoms can help you stay on top of your cardiovascular health and ultimately reduce your risk of having a heart attack or stroke.
If you already have some form of heart disease, regular EKGs can help us evaluate the effectiveness of your treatment plan (e.g., pacemaker, medication).
EKG testing outcome
Your EKG test results tell us whether electrical waves pass through your heart at a normal rate, faster than normal, slower than normal, or in an irregular pattern. Results that are fast, slow, or irregular, may be a sign that your heart is weak or overworked, or that it has some kind of structural (size or shape) abnormality.
An abnormal EKG result may indicate a heart rhythm disorder, or it may reveal an irregularity that’s associated with heart disease or heart failure. An EKG can also help us assess a suspected heart attack that may have gone undiagnosed at the time of occurrence.
Abnormal EKG results typically call for further testing. Specifically, you may require a cardiac ultrasound exam, also known as an echocardiogram. This noninvasive test uses sound waves to create moving pictures of your heart that can detect abnormal structure, function, pressure, and fluid collection.
Whether you’d like to schedule an EKG test or learn more about your results, we can help. Call your nearest ECCA office in Hartford or Manchester, Connecticut, today, or click online to book an appointment with one of our cardiovascular specialists any time.