If you or a loved one have been experiencing unusual chest symptoms, you may be worried about what it means. Is it something temporary? Is it life’s stresses? Is it something that requires immediate medical attention? If you’ve recently been to a doctor to try to figure out what it all means, it’s possible they ordered an electrocardiogram (EKG). While you get ready for the procedure, you may be wondering, what, exactly, does it all mean? What does an EKG show? How long does it take? And how can you best prepare for the test?
What is an EKG?
Every time a heart beats, it sends an electrical impulse. This movement is what causes the heart to pump blood throughout the body. An electrocardiogram is a test that records these electrical signals. It is performed to determine whether there’s a problem with how a person’s heart is working.
Typically, an EKG is ordered when a person has been experiencing symptoms of distress to the heart. These include:
- Chest pain
- Fast heartbeat
- Rapid pulse
- Shortness of breath
Electrocardiograms are especially useful if you have a family history of heart disease. When such is the case, your healthcare provider may recommend undergoing the test, even if you have no symptoms.
What does an EKG show?
An EKG measures the intervals of each electrical impulse. This information is important to determine how long it takes for the wave to travel from one part of the heart to the other. An EKG also measures the amount of force in each electrical activity. This helps medical providers detect whether the heart muscle is working too hard. Some of the conditions that are detectable through an electrocardiogram include:
- Abnormal heart rhythm
- Enlargement of the chambers of the heart
- Inadequate blood and/or oxygen supply to the heart
- Whether you have a history of heart attacks
- Whether you have narrowed arteries that are restricting blood flow
- Whether the treatment for a heart condition is working
How to Prepare for an EKG
The good news is that an electrocardiogram doesn’t hurt. And, since EKG devices are available in all medical facilities, you don’t need to go to an operating room for the procedure. Since EKGs are pain-free and readily available, you don’t need to do anything specific to prepare for it — unless you have hair on your chest. If such is the case, you’ll either have to shave or wax it. If you don’t do it, there’s no need to worry. It can be done on the day of your appointment by your medical provider.
As for what to expect, either a doctor or nurse will ask you to change into a hospital gown. You will then lie on an examination table. A nurse or technician will place sensors (called electrodes) on your chest and arms. These sensors attach to your body because they are covered in sticky patches. The electrodes are connected to a monitor — which is where your healthcare professional will be able to examine the electrical impulses in your heart.
During the procedure, you will have to remain still and not talk. Any type of movement — even shivering — may distort the results. The entire procedure only takes several minutes. If EKG results show any abnormalities, you may have to undergo additional testings to determine the best treatment options for you.
If You Need an EKG, Nurse Practitioners of Florida Can Help
At Nurse Practitioners of Florida, we have a dedicated team of certified nurse practitioners who have an unwavering commitment to providing you with care and compassion. When you call any of our locations, you will be greeted by a live person who’s ready to offer medical care. And, above everything else, you will be treated like family.