An electrocardiogram (ECG) measures the heart's electrical activity to help evaluate its function and identify any problems that might exist. The ECG can help determine the rate and regularity of heartbeats, the size and position of the heart's chambers, and whether there is any damage present. At Phoenix Family Medical Clinic we perform EKGs are a routine test for patients that present with symptoms like shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, chest pain and for chronic heart patients.
How Is an ECG Done?
There is nothing painful about getting an ECG. The patient is asked to lie down, and a series of small metal tabs are pasted to the skin with sticky papers. These electrodes are placed on the shoulders, the chest, the wrists, and the ankles. After the electrodes are in place, the patient is asked to hold still and to hold his or her breath briefly while the heartbeats are recorded for a short period. The information is interpreted by a machine and drawn as a graph. The graph consists of multiple waves, which reflect the activity of the heart. The height, length, and frequency of the waves are read by our medical providers to determine the health of the patient's heart.
A person's heartbeat should be consistent and even. ECGs look for abnormally slow and fast heart rates, abnormal rhythm patterns, conduction blocks (short-circuits of the heart's electrical impulses that cause rhythm inconsistencies between the upper and lower chambers) — and four types of heart damage:
- ventricular hypertrophy — an abnormal thickening of the heart muscle
- ischemia — caused by an abnormally decreased blood supply
- cardiomyopathies — abnormalities in the heart muscle itself
- electrolyte and drug disturbances — these can alter the heart's electrochemical environment
Computerized ECGs can be combined with other tests to provide a multimedia account of the heart. These additional tests includeechocardiograms (which are basically "ultrasound" tests that bounce sound off the heart and use the echoes to produce an image) and thallium scans (which are kind of like X-rays and use a radioactive tracer, injected into the bloodstream, to help draw a picture of the heart).
When Can I Get ECG Results?
Results of the ECG done at Phoenix Family Medical Clinic are available immediately. The doctors at our clinic will analyze and interpret the ECG.
When is an EKG done?
- Check the heart's electrical activity.
- Find the cause of unexplained chest pain, which could be caused by a heart attack, inflammation of the sac surrounding the heart or angina.
- Find the cause of symptoms of heart disease, such as shortness of breath, dizziness, fainting, or rapid, irregular heartbeats (palpitations).
- Find out if the walls of the heart chambers are too thick (hypertrophied).
- Check how well medicines are working and whether they are causing side effects that affect the heart.
- Check the health of the heart when other diseases or conditions are present, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, cigarette smoking, diabetes or a family history of early heart disease.
The providers at Phoenix Family Medical Clinic may decide to refer out the patient to a cardiologist for an expert or second opinion.