Each time the heart beats it emits electrical currents. An electrocardiogram (EKG) is a method in which electrodes are attached at various points on the body. These electrodes are attached to wires that are attached to the EKG machine. The electrodes send waves and impulses to the machine that amplifies the results on a monitor and prints them onto graph paper. Heart rates and palpitations are commonly diagnosed from the EKG results.
Heart rhythm can help to detect medical problems. Arrhythmia, heart valve disease, coronary artery disease and impending heart attacks can be determined by interpreting EKG rhythms. If an abnormality is detected, the technician or physician may request a follow-up EKG or other additional testing. Since some abnormalities may be caused by external or non-problematic internal factors, the EKG rhythm is not always the end-all to cardiovascular testing.
The technician will begin the EKG by placing 10 to 12 electrodes at various points on your body. The electrodes are placed from your lower breastbone to areas near the armpits. Other pads will be placed on each of your arms and legs. The electrodes are attached to wires, called leads, which are attached to the EKG machine.
The use of EKG rhythm strips is an additional way for interpreting results. Although the rhythm strip is only one point-of-view, it is often a more precise way to detect problems. Rhythm strips are particularly useful in patients who have reported very slow or very rapid heartbeats. Most EKGs take only 10 minutes or so to complete, however, when an EKG rhythm strip is used, the visit may be prolonged. EKG rhythm strips are generally used when the normal EKG does not produce desired results. The EKG strip can be used to measure your hearts patterns for a full minute or even longer.
For new students learning about the EKG process and EKG rhythms, the information can be overwhelming. Most schools do not spend an enormous amount of time covering the topics of rhythms but hospitals do require specialized classes in this area. An EKG technician will begin by understanding some basic rhythms and what is considered normal. As he or she gains experience and takes specialized courses, he or she will gain expertise in interpreting EKG rhythms and reading rhythm strips. An inexperienced technician will be unlikely to disclose the results of your EKG. Your cardiovascular specialist will look at and interpret your results and inform you as to whether or not your condition needs further evaluation.