Many physicians recommend EKGs as a preventative-screening tool for those with a family history of heart disease. While a healthy person does not need an EKG as a part of an annual exam, many physicians will recommend an EKG if they have concerns. If a patient complains of chest pain, palpitations or other indicators of heart problems, the physician will likely recommend an immediate EKG test. Depending on the severity of the situation, your doctor may refer you to a local testing center immediately or ask you to schedule the next available appointment.
An abnormal EKG is determined by comparing the results of your EKG graph with a standard or normal heart graph. Spikes and dips within the graph are referred to as P, QR and PR and other similar acronyms. Normal EKG readings show a slight flat-dip in between contractions and relaxations. If these flat-dips are not present, it may be an indication of a more serious problem. Normal EKG readings will have spikes and dips too.
Myocardial defects, heart valve disease, enlargement of the heart, inflammation of the heart, coronary artery disease, and past, pending or impending heart attacks are only a few of the problems that EKGs can help to detect. The conditions in which the EKG is performed can also have an impact on the accuracy of the results. Some heart problems are not present all of the time and therefore may not appear in EKG results. In cases where heart problems are suspected but not detected on the EKG, a Holter monitor may be recommended. This monitor is worn, usually for a period of 24 to 48 hours and serves as a type of mini-EKG test. The patient wears the monitor at home and it continuously records heart activity. Doctors also recommend that the patient be relaxed during the exam because any muscle trembling or contractions can alter the results and produce an inaccurate reading.
Many people are surprised to learn that they have had an abnormal EKG reading. What is even more surprising is that when presented with abnormal EKG results, some doctors do not seem concerned. It doe not necessarily mean they are inadequate or uncaring physicians, it is more likely they believe something else has caused the abnormal reading. Most will want to pursue further testing or another EKG. Sometimes an event as simple as low blood sugar can have an altering affect and produce false EKG readings. Other times, abnormal EKGs require further testing to determine what, if any, problems actually exist.