What Can an EKG Detect? A Comprehensive Guide
The electrocardiogram, also known as EKG or ECG, is a vital diagnostic tool used by healthcare professionals to assess patients with cardiac issues. EKG tests monitor and record your heart's electrical activity to ensure it's functioning correctly. In this guide, we'll explore the EKG test, its uses, and the various heart conditions it can detect.
What Is an EKG Test?
EKG tests measure the electrical impulses created by your pacemaker cells, which travel across the heart to initiate a heartbeat. This noninvasive and painless procedure provides information about your heart rate, size, and position.
EKG machines are commonly found in hospitals, ambulances, and emergency rooms. During the test, a doctor places electrodes on your chest and limbs to detect and record your heart's electrical activity. They then analyze the results for abnormalities such as irregular heart rates, blocked arteries, swelling, or signs of a previous heart attack.
How Does an EKG Test Work?
Muscle and nerve cells in your body communicate via electrical signals generated by the sinoatrial node or the heart's natural pacemaker. These signals travel across heart muscle tissues as tiny electrical impulses, which an EKG test can detect, measure, and represent graphically.
During an EKG test, a healthcare provider will attach 10 electrodes to your chest, arms, and legs. These electrodes are connected to wires that transmit your heart's electrical activity to a computer, which displays and records the results.
How Long Does an EKG Take?
The EKG test itself takes about three minutes, with minimal discomfort involved. You can typically resume your normal activities immediately after the test. Your doctor may take a few days to contact you with the results, and further diagnostic testing may be required if your scan appears abnormal.
Why Is an EKG Test Performed?
EKG tests are routinely prescribed for individuals with an increased risk of heart disease, a pacemaker, or those taking medication for existing heart conditions. Doctors may also order EKG tests for patients experiencing symptoms such as irregular pulse, increased heart rate, shortness of breath, chest pain, dizziness, confusion, muscle weakness, or fatigue.
What Problems Can an EKG Detect?
EKG tests can help identify various heart conditions, including:
Arrhythmia: Abnormal electrical impulses in the heart, which can disrupt blood flow and potentially damage vital organs.
Heart Attack: EKG tests can confirm if a heart attack is occurring or has occurred in the past.
Coronary Artery Disease (CAD): A buildup of plaque that narrows arteries, CAD is the leading cause of heart attacks and heart failure in the U.S.
Cardiomegaly: Also known as an enlarged heart, this condition can be a symptom of other cardiac issues and requires further investigation.
Aortic Aneurysms: Weak points or bulges in the aorta's walls, which can lead to life-threatening emergencies if they rupture.
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