An electrocardiogram (ECG) is one of the simplest tests used to assess and evaluate the heart. It is a medical test developed to measure the electrical activity of the heart to detect any cardiac abnormalities. The machine used for the test is called an electrocardiograph, which records and displays the electrical activity of the heart muscle.

An electrocardiograph displays the data as a trace either on paper or on a screen. The collected data is then interpreted by a specialist to find any signs of irregularities in the organ. A normal shape of ECG is recorded when the heart is healthy but any irregularities in the shape of the graph points to possible abnormalities of the heart.

The test provides information about whether there is any irregularities in the rhythm of the heart or if there is any damage to the heart muscle. If there is any abnormality present in the functioning of the heart, then a change will be seen in the electrical activity and the ECG will confirm the same.

When are some indications for the ECG test?   

ECGs are routinely performed on patients diagnosed with heart problems. These tests are also performed to assess the health of patients that use artificial cardiac peacemakers which have been previously fitted into the body. Doctors may also ask for the ECG test to be conducted when they want to monitor the effects of certain medications on the heart.

In general, an ECG test can also be recommend in certain cases, including –

  • When someone is at risk of heart-disease due to a family history
  • It’s also conducted when the patient is overweight or has diabetes
  • The test is also recommended to be performed by a doctor when a person experiences chest pain or feels shortness of breath
  • ECGs are performed on patients who may be feeling excessive dizziness, fainting or irregular heartbeats (palpitations)

How are ECGs conducted? 

ECG tests are known for their speed and simplicity (in terms of evaluating the heart). In fact, the entire procedures is completed within 5 to 10 minutes by a specialist or trained health care professional.

What are the steps for performing an ECG test?

  • ECG electrodes are first placed at certain spots on the body. These electrodes are generally small plastic patches that stick to the skin
  • The chest, arms and legs are usually the locations where these sticky patches are placed Lead wires are used to connect the electrodes to an ECG machine
  • Once the system is set up, the heart’s electrical activity is measured, the readings are recorded, interpreted and if need be, printed out
  • The machine records heart impulses to evaluate the heart beating rate and the rhythm of the heart beats

Why are ECG tests deemed as useful?

The ECG test is efficient, uncomplicated and fast. The following are a few reasons why ECG tests are favorable:

  • The test is absolutely free of pain
  • ECG takes no more than 10 minutes for completion
  • The test records heart activity in great detail
  • Patients and caregivers may also buy ECG electrodes for monitoring the heart activity at home


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Sara T. Loving

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