What Happens In Electrocardiogram (ECG/EKG) Test And Why You Need It?

September 9, 2021 | Written By: Nabil Nur Aiman Jasman


What Is An Electrocardiogram (EKG/ECG)?

You may have heard the word ECG or EKG when you were in the hospital or while watching a medical show. However, do you know what an ECG or EKG stands for? It stands for electrocardiogram.

An electrocardiogram is one of the tests used to analyze the electrical activity of the heart. This test was introduced in 1871 by August Waller. The ECG machine will record your heart activity and will print it on a piece of paper. For more modern ECG machines, it can record and store records directly into a computer through its own software. 

The function of the electrocardiogram is to make it easier for doctors to detect heart problems quickly through the results printed by the machine. ECG is also one of the easy and quick investigation tests to do. The results can be obtained in two to five minutes. Are you at risk for hypertension?

You can do an EKG test at a clinic or hospital. In this modern era, there are smart watches that can measure the pulse and record your heart rhythm.

Why Do You Need ECG?

The doctor will do an ECG test on patients who presented with certain symptoms such as chest pain which may be caused by the heart or other causes. In addition, ECG is also performed on patients with the symptoms mentioned below:

  • Dizziness or fainting

  • Difficulty breathing

  • Palpitations

  • Reduced physical activity due to fatigue and difficulty breathing

  • Fast and uneven pulse

  • Electrolyte imbalance in the body

ECG test results can give a lot of information on a piece of paper on the state of one's heart, including:

  • Heart rhythm

  • Pulse

  • Structure abnormal heart

  • Which part of the heart is affected

  • Effectiveness of treatments such as pacemaker

  • Previous or current heart attack episodes

Types of ECG

Holter ECG

Holter ECG performed after a normal ECG test is performed. The purpose is because regular ECG cannot provide enough and accurate information to a physician in a short period of time. In this case, the doctor will provide the patient with a small and portable ECG machine that can be taken anywhere to record cardiac activity in a given time, usually for a day or two.

During those one or two days, the machine will record your heart activity whether normal or not at all times as long as you use the machine. 

Stress ECG

Stress ECG is done when the patient is running on a treadmill or a riding a stationary bike. Patients will be instructed to do the exercise to the best of their ability. At the same time the EKG electrode is placed on the patient's chest and limbs. The purpose of this test is to assess and record whether the symptoms such as chest pain or shortness of breath experienced by the patient while performing strenuous physical activity are caused by the heart or not.

Among the other purposes of this test is to look at:

  • The extent of your ability to exercise before getting symptoms of chest pain and difficulty in breathing to design a special exercise program specifically for you.

  • The level of effectiveness of medications in controlling your symptoms

  • Whether your heart receives adequate blood supply while you are exercising or being active.

Among the things to consider before doing a stress test are:

  • Do not eat or drink except for plain water 4 hours before the test

  • Do not drink caffeinated beverages 12 hours before the test

  • Do not take heart medication such as nitrates unless directed by a doctor to reduce chest pain symptoms

During this test, the electrode will be attached on the patient's chest and connected directly to the EKG software or machine to record cardiac activity while exercising. 

When the test is performed, the operator or technician will ask the patient at random intervals about the symptoms he is experiencing at the moment such as:

ECG Procedure

ECG procedure is a relatively easy, fast, non-invasive and painless procedure. In addition, there is no specific preparation that needs to be done before you undergo this test to allow it to be carried out at any time.

Before the Test

Before the ECG test is done, you may need to undress or change to a hospital dressing. You are also encouraged to tell your doctor about the medications and supplements you are taking so that your doctor can evaluate the test results accurately. You are also asked to expose your chest so that the installation of an electrode or sensor can be done. If you have chest hair, the hair may be shaved by the operator to ensure the electrodes can attach and secure to your chest. You are also instructed to remove the jewelry, clock and place the phone away from you during the test to avoid electrical interference that could affect the  ECG results. 

During the Test

The doctor or the technician will attach the electrodes on your chest and limbs and then press the record button once you are ready. While the procedure is in progress, you are asked to be relaxed and not talking until the procedure is over. The purpose is to prevent interruptions during the ECG recording process.

After the Test

After the test is over, you can wear your clothes again and resume your daily activities as usual.

EKG Test Contraindications

Generally, there are no contraindications that cause a person to be unable to perform an EKG test. Some ECG electrodes use adhesives to attach to the chest may cause allergic reactions, however there are alternative materials that can be used to allow someone who is allergic to this material to undergo an EKG test. 

Results & Interpretation of EKG Results

After the ECG test results are printed. The doctor will read and interpret the ECG strip and identify the problem you are experiencing. The doctor will keep the strip for future reference to make a comparison with the new ECG section in the future.

The doctor will discuss with the patient based on the results printed on the ECG strip and perhaps other examinations should be done such as an echocardiogram to see the heart structure more clearly and make some blood tests. 

ECG interpretation is done carefully and carefully by medical practitioners. If necessary, the results of the ECG will be referred to a specialist so that no abnormalities in the patient's heart.

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