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Tuesday, July 26, 2016

What Is an Electrocardiogram?

In traditional pictures, doctors always examine their patients using a stethoscope. This is a useful tool that allows them to listen to some of the body’s internal functions, including the intestines, lungs, and heart. However, what it doesn’t do is really tell you how something is operating.

If a doctor wants to know if the heart is beating, a stethoscope is more than enough. If, however, they want to know how it is beating, they will need a bit more information. This information can be measured through ECG electrodes. So what do they measure and how?

Resting ECG

ECG stands for electrocardiogram. A resting ECG shows physicians how the heart works when the person is resting. This allows them to check on the overall condition of the heart. Resting ECGs are often used after someone has had cardiac surgery, angioplasty, an angiogram, or if their heart medication has changed. It takes between 15 and 20 minutes to complete a resting ECG.

Exercise ECG

The exercise ECG is better known as the stress test. Patients are placed under stress by exercising or through medication, determining how the heart works when it has to beat harder. This shows whether blood is flowing to the heart tissue properly. Stress tests have to be completed in controlled environments at all times. It is often used if coronary artery disease is suspected and can help people prevent heart attacks.

Holter ECG

The Holter is a portable monitor that measures the heart’s electrical activity for a 24 hour period or more. This allows doctors to diagnose a heart arrhythmia, whereby they can find out whether there are specific irregularities within the heart. To complete this test, ECG electrodes are placed over specific bones, which means they won’t accidentally pick up on muscular activity. The electrodes are attached to the Holter device, which the patient wears around their belt or neck. This is usually done after someone has had a heart attack, requires new heart medication, or is believed to have an arrhythmia.

ICU Monitoring

When someone is in the ICU (Intensive Care Unit), it is quite common for them to be attached to an ECG. In fact, it is one of the ICU’s most commonly used pieces of equipment. If someone is in the ICU, they must be monitored properly 24/7, and a problem with the heart is often indicative of something else going wrong. As a result, it is almost standard procedure to ensure someone is constantly monitored with an ECG.

OR Monitoring

While it is very common for someone in the ICU to be attached to an ECG, it is even more common for this device to be used in the OR (Operating Room). When someone is going through surgery and are under the effects of the anesthetic, they are no longer able to vocalize any problems. As a result, should they be in distress, they would be incapable of telling the physicians about this. By attaching them to an ECG, any changes can be detected immediately.

This is a guest blog post.

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