An EKG, or electrocardiogram, is a test to measure the electrical activity related to your heartbeat. It’s a common test that provides important information about your heart.
The experts at Heart & Vascular Institute order EKGs every day because it’s a simple, painless way for us to assess what’s happening with your heart.
To understand why we may ask you to have an EKG, as well as what we may learn from the test, you need to know a little bit about how your heart works.
The electrified organ
Most of us think about the heart as a muscle, and it is, but it functions properly in large part because it receives electrical signals telling it when to contract.
Each time your heart beats, an electrical impulse travels through it in a wave. This wave of electricity causes your heart to contract and squeeze out blood, sending it to the rest of your body.
Several things can go wrong with the electrical impulse. It may not happen regularly, there could be a problem with how long it takes to travel through your heart, or it may happen too quickly or too slowly. An EKG shows the electrical signals that your doctor can interpret.
What to expect
An EKG is painless. You need to remove any jewelry and undress from the waist up. Small electrodes are placed at various points on your chest, arms, and legs. The electrodes are attached with sticky pads, so it may be necessary to shave any hair where they’re placed.
Each electrode is connected to a wire, or lead, that connects to the EKG machine. Once everything is placed and the test begins, you need to be still and quiet.
You don’t feel anything during the test, so your provider tells you when it starts and when it’s finished. It doesn’t take much time. Once it’s finished, the electrodes and leads are removed.
Why you may need an EKG
Your doctor may recommend an EKG for numerous reasons, including:
- To identify the cause of chest pain
- To evaluate problems like fatigue, shortness of breath, or dizziness
- To find out if your heartbeat is regular
- To evaluate your heart health before surgery or other procedures
- To evaluate heart health if you experience certain conditions or events like a heart attack
- To check on your pacemaker or other device
- To evaluate whether your medication is working
- To establish a baseline of your heart health
There are other reasons, but these are some of the most common. Ambulances, clinics, emergency departments, and other facilities are usually equipped with EKG machines. Even some smartwatches can give an EKG reading.
If you’ve been asked to have an EKG, don’t worry. It won’t hurt, and the information your doctor gains can be valuable to protect your heart health.
To learn more or to schedule your EKG at Heart & Vascular Institute, call the nearest office, in Dearborn, Detroit, or Southfield, Michigan, or book your appointment online.