A noninvasive way for doctors to check your heart for damage
One of your most vital organs is the heart, a muscle that functions as a pump and is comprised of four chambers. A natural electrical system causes the heart to contract, which pumps blood throughout the body.
Sometimes there are issues with how the heart pumps blood and, when that happens, the best way to evaluate this vital organ is through the use of an electrocardiogram, which detects issues with the body’s natural electrical system. This noninvasive test helps doctors identify problems with the electrical activity of the heart.
Common reasons doctors order EKGs:
To check the heart’s electrical activity
To find the cause of unexplained chest pain or pressure
To check the thickness of the walls of the heart chambers
To see how well medicines are working or if they are causing side effects that affect the heart
To check how well mechanical devices implanted in the heart are functioning
To check the health of the heart when other diseases or conditions are present, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, cigarette smoking, diabetes or heart disease
The test generally takes about five to 10 minutes to complete. During the test, patients lie down on a bed or table and electrodes are attached to the chest, arms and legs. During the test, the patient must lie very still and not speak. It may even be necessary to hold your breath during parts of the test. The results, which resemble a series of waves, print from the machine on a sheet of paper.
While an EKG is helpful in diagnosing a variety of issues, there are some limitations. It is essentially a static picture and may not reflect underlying heart problems if the patient is not displaying any symptoms at the time of the test. For this reason, an EKG result might come back as normal even if there is an underlying heart condition. Many abnormal patterns on an EKG may be nonspecific and could be associated with a variety of conditions or circumstances.
If your EKG delivers an abnormal reading, consider getting a second opinion and discussing next steps with your doctor.
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