Mt Elizabeth Hospital, 3 Mount Elizabeth #14-13, Mt Elizabeth Medical Centre, S228510
Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) at Cadence Heart

Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG)

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What is an electrocardiogram?

More commonly known as ECG or EKG, an electrocardiogram records and measures the heart’s electrical activity at rest. It is a painless and non-invasive test that is used to quickly detect cardiovascular issues and monitor your heart’s condition.

The three main types of ECG are:

This section will focus on the resting ECG and what to expect for this investigative procedure.

What does an electrocardiogram test for?

Electrocardiogram show normal heart beat line (Sinus rhythm). ECG. EKG. Vital sign. Medical healthcare symbol.
A normal sinus rhythm indicates a healthy heart. It means that the electrical pulses from your sinus node (a part of the atria of the heart that controls your heartbeat) are transmitted throughout the heart muscle at a normal rate.

The test is painless, non-invasive, and provides valuable data about your heart’s condition. An electrocardiogram provides data on:

  • The rate and rhythm of the heart
  • Conduction pathways in the heart
  • The part of the heart that triggered each heartbeat

It is often used to detect and check for:

Above that, an ECG is also done during the routine physical examination or health check-up to get a picture of your heart’s current function and how it compares with previous results.

Who should go for an electrocardiogram?

Your doctor may recommend you get an ECG if you experience symptoms such as:

Above that, an electrocardiogram can also be done in preparation for surgery. If you have a personal or family history of heart conditions, an ECG should also be part of your annual health check-up to ensure that symptoms can be caught as soon as it arises.

What happens during an electrocardiogram?

The electrocardiogram test itself should only take between 5-8 minutes. It is completely non-invasive and painless. Below is a list of things you should expect before, during, and after an ECG.

Before the ECG or EKG procedure

Before the procedure:

  • You will be asked to remove your accessories and to change into a gown.
  • You will then be asked to lie flat on a bed where you have to lie still for the duration of the test.
  • The technician may shave small areas where the electrodes are to be placed. This is to ensure that the electrodes can stick closely to the skin.
  • During the test, avoid talking and moving to prevent interference and obtain the most accurate test results.

During the electrocardiogram:

  • Depending on your condition and the symptoms you show, your doctor may place 5 to 12 electrodes around your chest, arms, and legs. It is a sticky, cool, gel-like material that feels similar to pain-relieving patches.
  • The lead wires will then be attached and the reading will start.
  • The ECG machine measures your heart’s electrical activity and displays it as waves.
  • This will be continued for a few minutes until your cardiologist/ technician decides that there is enough data.
  • The wires will be disconnected and the electrodes will be removed.

After the test:

  • Areas of the skin where the electrodes were attached may feel a bit itchy and appear red. However, this will subside within a few minutes.
  • Right after the test is done, you can resume normal activities.
  • Your cardiologist may read your results immediately after the test or they might set a separate consultation date to discuss your results. This depends on each clinic’s schedule.
  • If your results show signs of a serious health condition, you may be asked to stay back for further testing or immediate treatment.

How to prepare for an electrocardiogram

There is no specific preparation you need to do before an ECG test. You can eat and drink as usual. Come in comfortable two-piece clothing as you will be asked to remove your upper clothing and change into a gown.

An important note is that oftentimes a resting ECG test, as described above, is just one part of the diagnostic process. Other tests can be taken within the same day, such as:

  • Ambulatory ECG: monitoring your heart for at least 24 hours as you proceed with normal activities
  • Stress test (exercise ECG): ECG while you are on a bike or treadmill (15 – 30 minutes)
  • Chest X-rays, MRI, or CT scan
  • Echocardiogram (heart ultrasound)
  • Blood tests

Your cardiologist will inform you of all tests scheduled beforehand so that you may prepare accordingly.

Benefits vs. Risks

An ECG is safe, non-invasive and very common. There are no absolute contraindications that would make you unsuitable for an ECG test. There are, however, certain conditions that may interfere with the ECG readings. These include:

  • Pregnancy
  • Obesity
  • Fluid build-up around the abdomen
  • Certain medicines
  • Electrolyte imbalances

If any of the aforementioned conditions apply to you, be sure to notify your doctor so they can make the necessary preparations and take into consideration your condition when interpreting your results.

An electrocardiogram allows your cardiologist to:

  • Uncover the cause of various heart symptoms
  • Diagnose a heart condition
  • Monitor your heart’s function & determine its overall health
  • Check for irregularities or abnormalities
  • Catch cardiovascular symptoms before it progresses
  • Figure out your risks of developing heart conditions in the future
  • Check the effectiveness of medications and/or treatment
  • Check how medication/treatment for another condition is affecting your heart

Summary

In conclusion, an ECG is a simple, painless, and yet incredibly valuable test that provides a general outline of your heart’s condition and has had a long history in aiding doctors to give care to their patients.

It is a very important tool in determining the next step in your diagnosis and treatment. As always, discuss all your options with your cardiologist to find a plan that you are most comfortable with.

Dr Devinder Singh

Senior Consultant Cardiologist &
Cardiac Electrophysiologist

Dr Devinder Singh is the Medical Director of Cadence Heart Centre. He is an experienced Senior Consultant Cardiologist & Cardiac Electrophysiologist with over 20 years of clinical experience.

His expertise lies in clinical cardiology, cardiac rhythm disorders (arrhythmia), cardiac pacing (including cardiac resynchronisation therapy) and cardiac magnetic resonance imaging. He performs electrophysiology studies and radiofrequency ablation of cardiac arrhythmias, and is well versed in pacemaker and defibrillator insertions.

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    Mt Elizabeth Hospital, 3 Mount Elizabeth #14-13
    Mt Elizabeth Medical Centre, Singapore 228510
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