An electrocardiogram (ECG) is one of the simplest and fastest tests used to evaluate the heart. Electrodes (small, plastic patches that stick to the skin) are placed at certain locations on the chest, arms and legs. When the electrodes are connected to an ECG machine by wires, the electrical activity of the heart is measured, interpreted and printed out. No electricity is sent into the body and there is nothing painful or uncomfortable involved in an ECG.
Here's how it works: Natural electrical impulses coordinate contractions of the different parts of the heart to keep blood flowing in the right directions, and in the proper amounts. An ECG records these impulses to show how fast the heart is beating, the rhythm of the heartbeats and the strength and timing of the electrical impulses. Changes in an ECG can be a sign of many heart-related conditions.
There are many reasons your doctor or cardiologist may order an ECG, included as part of a thorough physical or certain life insurance exams. Some specific reasons include:
An electrocardiogram (ECG) is a quick, easy way to assess the heart's function. Risks associated with ECG are minimal and rare. There are certain factors or conditions, however, which may interfere with or affect the results of the ECG. These include:
An electrocardiogram may be done on an outpatient basis or as part of your hospital stay. In a private examination room, the technician will ask you to lie on a bed or table. Certain areas of your arms, legs and chest will be cleaned and, in some instances, shaved. This provides a clean, smooth surface for attaching the electrodes.
Several electrodes are attached to the skin on each arm and leg and on your chest, sometimes along with a dab of electrode paste to aid in electrical conductivity. The electrodes, then, are hooked to the ECG machine.
During the test, you will be asked to lie very still and breathe normally. Sometimes you may be asked to hold your breath. You should not talk during the test.
Once the test is completed – usually after only 5 or 10 minutes – the electrodes are carefully removed, and any electrode paste is wiped off.
Your ECG will be read and interpreted by a doctor, like one of the cardiologists at Baylor Jack and Jane Hamilton Heart and Vascular Hospital. The doctor will look at the pattern of spikes and dips on your ECG to check the electrical activity in different parts of your heart as your heart goes through its beating cycle. The spikes and dips are grouped into different sections that show your doctor how your heart is working.
Baylor Jack and Jane Hamilton Heart and Vascular Hospital is the first North Texas hospital dedicated solely to the care and treatment of patients with cardiovascular diseases and related conditions. As part of Baylor Scott & White Health, Baylor Hamilton Heart and Vascular Hospital strives to provide quality and safety in the delivery of patient care. To learn more about understanding or treating atrial fibrillation, or to schedule an appointment, call 214.820.0160, or click Find a Physician today.
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