Electrocardiograms (ECGs or EKGs) have been around since the 1800s. The machines used in the early tests have undergone significant changes, including drastic downsizing. The first EKG machine weighed 600 pounds. Today’s digital consumer version is available via a smartphone app.
However, despite its age, the EKG remains one of the most frequently prescribed tests for checking your heart’s health status. That’s certainly the case at Premier Cardiology Consultants, serving New York City from offices in New Hyde Park on Long Island, Forest Hills, and Jamaica.
Read what the Premier Cardiology team says about the different types of EKG and what the study can reveal about your heart.
How does an electrocardiogram work?
A standard EKG takes a snapshot of your heart function at rest by tracing and recording the electrical signals your heart produces with each beat. Sticky disc-shaped electrodes attached to your chest, arms, and legs and connected to the EKG machine with thin wires (leads) measure the pulses.
The machine transforms the pulses into a line (wave) graph and prints a copy for your records. Your provider evaluates each beat's amplitude, duration, and other essential factors by assessing the spacing between and the height of peaks and valleys on the printout.
The painless, in-office study lasts a minute or less. Ironically, attaching and removing the electrode patches takes longer than the actual EKG.
What conditions does an electrocardiogram show?
An electrocardiogram can reveal cardiac problems such as:
- Irregular heart rhythm (arrhythmias)
- Elevated or otherwise irregular heart rate
- Enlarged heart chambers and other structural problems
- Damage caused by a previous heart attack
- A heart attack in progress
- Inadequate blood supply and oxygen to the heart during an episode of chest pain
- Evaluating the success of cardiovascular treatments
Abnormalities noted on an EKG can help guide your specialist’s decision regarding further cardiac testing, which may include a different type of EKG or imaging studies such as an echocardiogram.
What are the different types of electrocardiograms?
Because a standard resting EKG provides a very brief view of your heart function, your Premier Cardiology Consultant may recommend the following types of EKG:
This small wearable device, about the size of a deck of cards, records a continuous EKG for one to two days. Electrodes attached to your chest run to the battery-operated device that can fit in a pocket or attach to your belt. As you go about your daily routine, you keep a journal of your symptoms, the time of day they occurred, and how long they lasted. At the end of the study, your provider compares the info in your journal to the electrical recordings provided by the monitor.
Similar in shape and size to a Holter monitor, an event monitor records your heart activity when it senses an abnormal rhythm. The monitor is usually worn for 30 days, and recordings are downloaded to the office over the phone.
Your provider will likely recommend a stress test for symptoms that usually occur with exercise. An EKG is performed before, during, and after the stress test to capture your heart’s response to activity and how long it takes to recover afterward.
Implantable loop recorder
A loop recorder implanted under the skin of your chest during minor in-office surgery provides continuous rhythm monitoring. It may be left in place for up to three years.
For more information about EKGs or other cardiac services we offer, schedule an evaluation at Premier Cardiology Consultants today.