ECG Introduction--what is it?
The electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) is a diagnostic tool that measures and records the electrical activity of the heart in exquisite detail. Interpretation of these details allows diagnosis of a wide range of heart conditions. These conditions can vary from minor to life threatening
The term electrocardiogram was introduced by Willem Einthoven in 1893 at a meeting of the Dutch Medical Society. In 1924, Einthoven received the Nobel Prize for his life's work in developing the ECG.
The ECG has evolved over the years.
The standard 12-lead ECG/EKG that is used throughout the world was introduced in 1942
It is called a 12-lead ECG/EKG because it examines the electrical activity of the heart from 12 points of view.
This is necessary because no single point (or even 2 or 3 points of view) provides a complete picture of what is going on
To fully understand how an ECG/EKG reveals useful information about the condition of your heart requires a basic understanding of the anatomy (that is, the structure) and physiology (that is, the function) of the heart
ECG: Synonyms and Keywords
electrocardiogram, EKG, ECG, heart tracing, rhythm strip, 12-lead ECG, anatomy of the heart, heart, atrium, left atrium, right atrium, ventricle, right ventricle, left ventricle, lungs, blood vessels, circulatory system, blood pressure, oxygen, coronary heart disease, heart failure, angina, heart attack, myocardial infarction, MI, chest pain, heart function, sinoatrial node, SA node, sinus node, atrioventricular node, AV node, electrical activity of the heart, atrial contractions, ventricular contractions, P wave, T wave, QRS interval, QRS wave, QRS complex, heart rhythm disorders, arrhythmias, palpitations, nausea, anxiety, fainting, syncope, abnormal ECG tracings, AED, automatic external defibrillator, ECG results,Electrocardiogram Results
Reasons to Have an ECG (benefits of an ECG)
Heart problems can produce a wide array of symptoms.
Without the benefit of an ECG, it may be impossible to tell whether these symptoms are being caused by a heart problem or just mimicking one.
Therefore, unless your symptoms are explained by an illness, injury, or condition known to not affect the heart, an ECG will generally be done.
Common symptoms that frequently require an ECG include the following:
Chest pain or discomfort
Shortness of breath
Palpitations (rapid or pounding heartbeats or increased awareness of heart beating)
ECG often reveals a problem that is not primarily cardiac in nature. Examples are overdoses of certain drugs (such as certain antidepressants, , or ) or electrolyte abnormalities (especially potassium).
If you are about to have surgery with general anesthesia, you will have an ECG to detect any latent (silent) cardiac conditions that might worsen with the stresses of surgery and anesthesia.
People of any age who are in occupations that stress the heart (professional athletes or firefighters, for example) or involve public safety (commercial airline pilots, train conductors, and bus drivers) require ECGs as well.
Anyone aged 40 years or older should have an ECG done. This first ECG serves as a screening tool to detect any cardiac problems and as a baseline for comparison of future ECGs.
A complete list of who should obtain an ECG, called Guidelines for ECG, is published by the Joint Committee of the AHA/ACC (American Heart Association/American College of Cardiology).