An electrocardiogram—also called an EKG or ECG—measures the heart’s electrical activity. Doctors request this noninvasive diagnostic tool to investigate and discover more about their patients’ heart health. Read to find out the three common reasons to get an electrocardiogram.
1. Establish a Baseline Measurement
Your baseline heart rate is the number of beats per minute during rest or inactivity. You or your doctor might want to know this number to determine your appropriate exercise intensity. After all, you want to maximize your workout to achieve the best results, but you don’t want to strain or injure your body.
Establishing the baseline heart rate is also useful for understanding the effects of medications, procedures, or certain events on your heart. Your physician can compare the baseline measurement with future EKGs to understand the changes.
2. Investigate Possible Heart-Related Problems
Another common reason to get an electrocardiogram is to investigate possible heart-related symptoms. The following signs and symptoms can indicate heart problems and prompt a doctor to request an EKG:
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Weakness or fatigue
- Heart palpitations
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
The EKG provides accurate and timely information that can help confirm or rule out suppositions about a patient’s heart health. This can lead to a diagnosis and treatment plan.
To further symptom monitoring, another type of EKG monitoring called the ambulatory EKG can monitor continuously for 24 hours or longer. An ambulatory EKG can pick up on changes in your heart’s electrical activity during your daily activities, shining a light on symptoms that might not present themselves in the clinic.
3. Evaluate the Efficacy of Treatments
In addition to using EKGs for establishing a baseline heart rate and investigating heart-related problems, doctors also order EKGs to evaluate cardiac treatments. An abnormal EKG can indicate electrolyte imbalances, heart rate abnormalities, and medication side effects.
After a patient receives a pacemaker, their doctor can use an EKG to monitor the pacemaker’s performance. If the EKG indicates abnormalities, such as a heart rate that’s too fast or slow, your cardiologist will address the issue.
An EKG is a helpful, noninvasive way to monitor a patient’s heart health. Whether for routine assessment, as a tool for diagnosis, or for evaluating a treatment, EKGs are a common test in cardiology.