What Does an Electrocardiogram Measure?|Risks & Limitations of Electrocardiogram
An electrocardiogram, also known as ECG or EKG is a non-invasive test used to detect and measure the heart's electrical activity. Small amount of electrical impulses are produced by the heart that spreads through the heart muscles to make it contract to pump blood. These impulses are detected in an electrocardiogram to examine the functioning of the heart.
Why is an Electrocardiogram Done?
An electrocardiogram is essentially performed to examine the heart function. Conventional symptoms where a patient might have to go for an electrocardiogram include chest pain, shortness of breath, palpitations or lightheadedness. Incidents of high blood pressure, cholesterol and feeling of tiredness are also the symptoms which might require an ECG test. Electrocardiogram in such cases might be one of the first tests to determine if there is a presence of heart attack or narrowing of blood vessels.
What Does an Electrocardiogram Measure?
An electrocardiogram can measure the presence of an irregular heartbeat, which is a matter of concern. This is because abnormal heart rhythms affect heart's ability to pump blood and provide oxygen to the whole of the body. Electrocardiogram can also help in the determination of an enlarged heart. Sometimes, an electrocardiogram is recommended to a patient just before a surgery just to make sure that the person's heart condition is normal.
Report of an electrocardiogram done can be given on the day of the test itself. The result of the electrocardiogram report is discussed by the patient's primary doctor. Normal test results include normal heart rate and consistent and even heart rhythm. This shows that the heart is able to pump ample blood to provide to the rest of the body organs. Signs of abnormal results include:
- Damages in heart muscles.
- Congenital heart disease.
- Improper blood supply to the coronary arteries. This happens due to blockages in the coronary arteries.
- Variation in the amount of potassium and calcium commonly known as the electrolytes in the blood.
- Recent history of the occurrence of heart attack
- Inflammation of heart called the myocarditis.
- Accumulation of fluid or swelling in the sac around the heart.
- Enlargement of the heart.
- Irregular heartbeats.
Will There be a Need to go for Additional Tests After an Electrocardiogram?
There may be a need to undergo few other tests after an electrocardiogram is done. For instance, if a patient's electrocardiogram report at rest is normal, but he experiences chest pain while climbing stairs or walking uphill, a stress test or exercise electrocardiogram test may be recommended. A stress test is nothing but a specialized form of electrocardiogram, recorded while the patient walks on a treadmill. Other additional investigations may include an angiogram to examine artery blockages.
What are the Risks of Undergoing an Electrocardiogram?
An electrocardiogram is a painless test because it does not involve any sort of invasion. The machine so used in the test simply records the heart's activity. Electrocardiogram is a quick and safe test. Although electrodes are used to detect the heart's impulses, no electricity is made to pass through the body while the test takes place. Thus the process of the electrocardiogram is completely harmless without any risks or after effects.
What are the Limitations of the Electrocardiogram?
Although an electrocardiogram is a simple and valuable test to detect heart problems a normal electrocardiogram test does not rule out very serious heart problems. For example, there can be a presence of an irregular heartbeat, while an electrocardiogram test might record it as normal. Another limitation of electrocardiogram is that it cannot record all the heart attacks that the patient might have suffered in the past.