ECG

Written by: 
Dr Roger Henderson

This page offers essential information about ECGAbbreviation for electrocardiogram, a tracing of the electrical activity of the heart to help in the diagnosis of heart disease. and what to expect when having the test.

An electrocardiogramA tracing of the electrical activity of the heart. is a routine test of the heart that is used both in hospital settings and by family doctors.

It is designed to assess the health of a person's heart, especially when a patient has had heart-related symptoms or has acuteHas a sudden onset. or chronicA disease of long duration generally involving slow changes. medical problems.

An ECGAbbreviation for electrocardiogram, a tracing of the electrical activity of the heart to help in the diagnosis of heart disease. is sometimes known as an EKG in the USA and some other parts of the world.

People with chest pain, shortness of breath or palpitationsThe feeling when you become aware of your heartbeat - when frightened, for example. will usually have an ECGAbbreviation for electrocardiogram, a tracing of the electrical activity of the heart to help in the diagnosis of heart disease. at some point

How does an ECG work?

The heart beats because of electric currents that travel through it in a controlled manner. Any disruption to this normal activity can be recorded on an ECGAbbreviation for electrocardiogram, a tracing of the electrical activity of the heart to help in the diagnosis of heart disease.. Because of this, ECGs are routinely requested in patients who have, or are suspected to have, problems with the heart, circulation and lungs.

People with chest pain, shortness of breath or palpitationsThe feeling when you become aware of your heartbeat - when frightened, for example. will usually have an ECGAbbreviation for electrocardiogram, a tracing of the electrical activity of the heart to help in the diagnosis of heart disease. at some point, and the procedure is useful in assessing the effectiveness of treatments and medication for heart conditions. The test is always needed before surgery in people with heart problems.

What can I expect?

The test involves the patient lying down (or occasionally sitting if unable to lie down) and having a series of 12 sticky pads placed across the chest, wrists and ankles. (If the chest is very hairy, small patches of skin may need to be shaved to make sure there is good contact between the patch and the skin.)

The test then takes less than a minute to complete and the patient is required to lie as still as possible since movement affects the readings. It is completely painless and is not uncomfortable before or afterwards.

The results are displayed on a strip of paper, or a monitor, or both.

The only potential problem arises if there is any allergy to the adhesive on the patches used - this may cause a small local reddening of the skin, which clears up without treatment within a few days.

If a problem is detected on the ECGAbbreviation for electrocardiogram, a tracing of the electrical activity of the heart to help in the diagnosis of heart disease. reading, further tests may be needed to allow a final diagnosisThe process of determining which condition a patient may have.. These may include an echocardiogramAn ultrasound examination of the heart as it is pumping. Also known as an 'echo'., an angiogramAn X-ray image of the blood vessels following the injection of a dye to improve visibility. or an ECGAbbreviation for electrocardiogram, a tracing of the electrical activity of the heart to help in the diagnosis of heart disease. taken during exercise (an 'exercise stressRelating to injury or concern. test').

Characteristic changes appear on an ECGAbbreviation for electrocardiogram, a tracing of the electrical activity of the heart to help in the diagnosis of heart disease. after a heart attackThe death of a section of heart muscle caused by an interruption in its blood supply. Also called a myocardial infarction., so an ECGAbbreviation for electrocardiogram, a tracing of the electrical activity of the heart to help in the diagnosis of heart disease. is a vital test to diagnose this problem, along with bloodA fluid that transports oxygen and other substances through the body, made up of blood cells suspended in a liquid. tests to confirm the diagnosisThe process of determining which condition a patient may have..

An ECGAbbreviation for electrocardiogram, a tracing of the electrical activity of the heart to help in the diagnosis of heart disease. can also be useful in picking up potentially harmful problems before complications occur, for example by demonstrating heart disease that has not been suspected, or identifying previous heart attacks that have been so mild that they have not caused symptoms.