The Electrocardiogram (ECG, or EKG)
Chances are, you have had an ECG. It is frequently the first test done during the initial cardiac evaluation. The ECG was discovered more than 100 years ago by Einthoven (in Holland) and continues to be the easiest, least expensive non-invasive cardiac diagnostic tool.
This is how it works:
The heart generates electrical forces with each heartbeat, and the resulting signal can be recorded through wires called “leads” attached to the body’s surface. The electrical impulses are then transmitted to a computer, which translates the information into a readable form. This is the “electrocardiogram”, or ECG. The ECG provides useful information regarding your heart’s rhythm – it’s regularity, frequency, abnormality of muscle function, oxygen supply, etc.
While in some cases the ECG may be the only test performed, it’s results may signal a problem that leads your doctor to recommend further cardiac assessment with more targeted tests such as the echocardiogram, isotope imaging, or cardiac catheterization. When someone has rhythm-related problems, a cardiac electrophysiologic study will often be recommended.
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