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What You Need to Know About an ECG or EKG

Just as an X-ray is the diagnostic workhouse for orthopedists, an electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) is often the first step we take in determining whether there’s a problem with the function of your heart.

At Heart Rhythm Associates, Dr. Van H. De Bruyn and our team of cardiovascular specialists provide comprehensive evaluations and diagnoses of a wide range of heart health issues, from arrhythmias to heart failure

In the following, we take a look at what an EKG can tell us about your health and what you should expect during your EKG.

Powering the heart

To better understand why an EKG is such a valuable diagnostic tool, it’s helpful to step back and quickly review how your heart accomplishes its primary function — delivering oxygen — and nutrient-rich blood throughout your body.

Your heart is a muscle that’s divided into four chambers: two on the right side and two on the left side. Your heart receives oxygen-depleted blood into the upper righthand chamber (atrium), which sends it down into the right ventricle. 

Your right ventricle then pumps the blood into your lungs, where your blood exchanges carbon dioxide for oxygen and is then sent to your left atrium. From there, your left atrium sends the oxygen-rich blood into your left ventricle, which is responsible for pumping the blood through your arteries to your entire body. And your heart does this, on average, 100,000 times per day.

Powering this amazing pumping action is an electrical system that’s designed to keep your heartbeats regular and steady, ensuring that your body has the oxygen it needs. And it’s this electrical system that we measure with an EKG.

EKG — a frontline tool

An EKG measures the electrical impulses that power your heart’s pumping action, which provides us with invaluable information about the function of your heart. More specifically, an EKG measures how long it takes for an electrical impulse to travel to each of the four chambers we described above. 

An EKG also measures the overall electrical activity in your heart, which helps us diagnose conditions such as:

As you can see, the EKG gives us the first glimpse of a potential problem, which guides us in determining our next diagnostic steps.

EKG — simple and painless

While health issues that involve your heart may seem daunting, the good news is that an EKG is anything but daunting. If we perform the EKG here in our office, we simply attach up to 12 electrodes to your body in various locations, and in a matter of minutes, we’re able to assess your heart’s electrical activity.

In some cases, we may outfit you with a Holter monitor, which measures your heart’s electrical activity for 24-48 hours. This allows us to spot trends that may occur outside of an office setting, such as when you wake, when you exercise, and so on.

Taking the Holter monitor a step further, we can also turn to an event monitor, which you can wear for much longer periods and activate any time you feel symptoms. 

The bottom line is that when it comes to your heart health, an EKG is one of the most valuable diagnostic tools available.

If you’d like to learn more about an EKG and whether you should undergo the test, please contact our office in Little Rock, Arkansas, to set up a consultation.

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