Electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG)

An electrocardiogram, abbreviated as EKG or ECG, is a common heart rhythm test used to measure the electrical activity of the heart. This noninvasive and painless test is typically conducted within a hospital room, clinic, or doctor’s office while the results are recorded to determine if there are any issues that may be affecting the heart’s function.

What Happens During an EKG?

Each beat of the heart sends an electrical impulse or “wave” through the heart, which is what allows the muscle to squeeze and pump blood throughout the heart. An electrocardiogram measures the timing and strength of these impulses in 12 different areas of the heart, which is why this test is also occasionally referred to as a 12-lead EKG or 12-lead ECG.

These measurements are then transcribed as waves on a graph, with different corresponding patterns to each electrical phase of the heartbeat. These patterns are examined by a cardiac care professional to identify any abnormal heart rhythms, which can be key to diagnosing and monitoring several different types of heart conditions such as:

  • Coronary artery disease
  • An arrhythmia
  • Structural issues within the chambers of the heart
  • A previous heart attack
  • Results of ongoing heart disease treatments

Other Common Heart Rhythm Tests

In addition to an electrocardiogram, there are several other types of tests that may be performed to measure the state of an individual’s heart. These types of heart rhythm tests include:

  • Stress test
  • Holter monitor
  • Event monitor
  • Implantable loop recorder

Symptoms Warranting a Heart Rhythm Test

It is advised to seek the advice of a heart health specialist in request of an EKG or ECG if you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Heart palpitations
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Rapid pulse
  • Weakness or fatigue
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Difficulty during regular activities or exercises

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