An electrocardiogram also known as an EKG or ECG is a non-invasive test that looks at the electrical activity of the heart. In simplest terms, the human heart may be thought of as containing two systems – plumbing and electrical. The electrical system of the heart actuates the pump (heart muscle) sustaining the flow of deoxygenated blood to the lungs and the flow of oxygenated blood to the cells of the body.
- Small sticky tabs will be placed on your chest and extremities
- Electrical wires from the EKG machine will be attached to the tabs
- The operator will ask that you lie quietly while the machine translates your heart’s electrical activity into a series of lines on special chart paper for interpretation
Who might need an EKG?
An EKG may be ordered by your physician for a number of reasons ranging from evaluation of your heart during an annual physical to evaluating the performance of a pacemaker. EKGs are most commonly ordered when a person complains of chest pain or palpitations. The pattern of the lines traced on the chart paper can indicate to your physician the severity of your condition. This will help guide the physician when deciding what future tests or medications you might need.
What if my EKG is abnormal?
It depends on the setting in which the EKG is being taken. If you are receiving an EKG in your doctor’s office or another outpatient setting, you may be referred to a heart specialist called a cardiologist for further evaluation or sent to the Emergency Department if an immediate life threat is detected.
For more information on Electrocardiograms, see the following websites:
WebMD Overview on Electrocardiograms
National Institute of Health Overview entitled Who Needs an EKG?
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