We do EKGs at our clinic. An EKG is an external test performed by placing stickers with electrodes on your chest and limbs. When linked to the correct machine, these electrodes will be able to determine the nature of the electricity that is flowing through your heart, indirectly telling the physician how your heart is functioning. An EKG is a very common medical tool that allows us to safely analyze the inner workings of the heart without entering the body.
The EKG’s purpose is to evaluate your heart for abnormalities. If abnormalities are found, the EKG can also assess the age of onset and how severe a condition may be. Combined with clinical exam and history the EKG leads to meaningful and helpful data to diagnose the person’s condition.
How does it work? The machine itself works by graphing and analyzing conduction and movement through the heart muscle. Low potential electric fields and waves pass over and through our body all the time. In the case of the heart, there is electric flow over the heart as often as the heart beats. A single contraction of the heart results in the forcing of blood out of the heart and into the arteries of the body to take it to the rest of the system. The electricity that controls the muscle movement of the heart (and other muscles) can be captured and organized into a readable graph that can be analyzed and compared. This graph is called an EKG.
The process of the test is quite simple. It is not invasive and does not cause pain. A member of our trained medical staff will place an electrode sticker on each of the four limbs and six electrode stickers are placed on the chest wall in a pattern to assess most parts of the heart. These electrodes are linked with individual wires to a unit that will process the data and print out the EKG report for viewing and analysis. The analyzing computer usually even gives its own interpretation of the printed EKG. This does not take long and will not cause you any discomfort.
What does the test look for? For practical purposes the EKG will tell you how well the electricity is flowing through your heart at the time it is being done. It can localize which location of the heart has an issue, it can evaluate skipped beats, changes in rate, old injury, certain mineral deficiencies or excesses and multiple other things. The most significant thing it can show us is if a certain part of the heart is receiving decreased blood flow or no blood flow. This key test helps decide if further intervention is needed and if the person is at increased risk of a heart attack or having one.
It may surprise you but EKGs in themselves are not the most reliable test. You may have a cardiac issue and the EKG reads as normal. They can give false reads. Many conditions come and go but it is when symptoms are occurring that the EKG is most effective in seeing damage, unless the damage is permanent. A normal EKG does not guarantee that everything is fine and an abnormal EKG does not confirm a diagnosis. An EKG is a piece of information that needs to be combined with history, physical exam, and other data to determine a heart’s condition.
When should I have an EKG?
Common reasons to have an EKG include but are not limited to: chest pain, pressure, gas, shortness of breath, passing out, fatigue and weakness, palpitations, upper abdominal pain, arm numbness or tingling, and upper back pain. EKG’s are commonly performed before surgery or other procedures that would entail anesthesia.
If you experience acute onset symptoms, call 911 or get to your nearest emergency room as further and more extensive evaluation may be needed.