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ECG for you and me

About the Author

Dr. Omar Baqal
Dr. Baqal is a resident physician at Mayo Clinic and a published scientific researcher. He is interested in cardiovascular medicine, public health and medical education. In his downtime, he mentors medical students and professionals, helping them pursue their dreams.
Dr. Baqal is a resident physician at Mayo Clinic and a published scientific researcher. He is interested in cardiovascular medicine, public health and medical education. In his downtime, he mentors medical students and professionals, helping them pursue their dreams.

What is an ECG Test?

An ECG, or electrocardiogram, is a test that is used to evaluate the health and activity of a patient’s heart. The test is conducted by measuring the electrical activity that passes through different areas of the heart. Information is provided based on the rate and rhythm of the heart beats. ECG tests may be performed in ambulances, operating rooms, provider offices, hospital rooms, and clinics.

You may need an ECG if you have:

●     Chest pain

●     Shortness of breath

●     Dizziness

●     Lightheadedness or confusion

●     Heart palpitations

●     Weakness or fatigue

●     Decline in the ability to exercise

Healthcare providers might use ECGs to determine how well certain treatments are working, such as treatments for heart disease. ECGs might also be used alongside other tests to confirm a diagnosis. Patients may also be referred by their physician for an EGC as part of a routine health check or if they suspect the patient has an underlying heart condition.

ECGs can help in the monitoring and diagnosing of various conditions that affect the heart, such as:

●     Coronary artery disease. This is when the heart’s blood supply is blocked or interrupted by the buildup of fatty substances.

●     Arrhythmias. This is when the heart beats too slowly, too fast, or irregularly.

●     Heart attacks. This is when the supply of blood to the heart is suddenly blocked causing damage to the heart muscle.

●     Cardiomyopathy. This is when the heart walls become thickened, enlarged or weak.

Watch this live Q&A with Dr. Omar Baqal on ECG signal, what it is telling us and why it is important.

Types of ECG Tests

There are a few different types of ECG tests:

Holter Monitor

This is a small wearable device that continuously records an ECG for 24 to 48 hours. It can help diagnose conditions like atrial fibrillation or skipped heart beats. Three electrodes will be attached to a patient’s chest and wires will lead to a small recorder attached around the waist.

Event Monitor

This testing device is similar to the Holter monitor, but it is worn for a longer period of time usually covering a month.Some event monitors may record irregular rhythms on their own, but most require you to push a button whenever the patient is experiencing symptoms.

Exercise ECG

This type of test monitors the function of the heart when there is increased activity. The test is conducted when the patient is walking on a treadmill or cycling using an exercise bike. This test is usually done in a provider’s office.  

What should I expect before an ECG test?

There are no special preparations that you will need to take before an ECG test. Your healthcare provider will let you know if there are any steps you will need to take, as well as provide you with an overall evaluation. If you are taking any medications or supplements, you will need to discuss these with your provider so that they will be able to inform you of how your results may be affected.

What happens during an ECG test?

The test is considered safe and completely painless. Ten small sticky patches, which are called electrodes, will be placed on your arms, legs, and chest. If you have hair in these locations, your provider may shave these parts of your body to help the electrodes stick to you better. The test will last only a few minutes, but it helps to try to keep still during this time. The electrodes will send signals to the ECG machine, which will display these signals as different waves on the ECG monitor. These waves will later be printed out onto a paper and reviewed by your healthcare team.

The results of an ECG test

The results of an ECG test can typically be discussed the same day or in a following appointment. The results of an ECG can be utilized for a treatment plan, depending on your individual needs. The following information can be derived from an ECG test:

●     Heart rate. An ECG can detect unusually fast(tachycardia) or slow (bradycardia) heart rates.

●     Heart rhythm. An ECG can detect irregular electrical activity of the heart, which is called arrhythmias.

●     Heart attack. An ECG can detect past or recent heart attacks, while also providing information regarding the location and extent of the damage.

●     Heart structure changes. An ECG can detect clues regarding changes in the heart structure, such as enlarge size, structural defects, and various other issues.

ECG signal and basic Heart Function

SmartBP: Apple Watch ECG Sync

SmartBP, an innovative health monitoring app, is allowing individuals to put the power of their health back into their own hands. With SmartBP’s syncing abilities, ECG data that has been measured from the Apple Watch can seamlessly be added into your health information withSmartBP on iPhone and iPad. You can add symptoms, tags or print and share ECG reports with your doctor.

With the SmartBP App you can track your ECG, add symptoms or tags and share or print ECG reports for your doctor.

Important: The information provided is NOT a substitute for a doctor or professional healthcare or advice. Any health related information provided in SmartBP® app and this website is for informational purposes only and should not be used to replace the advice of healthcare professionals.

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