ECG is an abbreviation for an electrocardiograph. An ECG records the heart's electrical activity as a graph or a series of wavy lines on a moving strip of paper. It provides information on a patient's heart rate and rhythm and blood flow. It is used to diagnose medical problems such as a heart attack or irregular heartbeats.
Heart rhythm problems or arrhythmias can be diagnosed using a variety of methods. The method depends upon the specific heart rhythm problem suspected by a physician. An electro physiology is done when the arrhythmia is identified as a fast heart rhythm problem called tachyarrhythmia.
There are different types of ECG tests that help record the heart's rhythm of patients. The exercise ECG or stress test is a graphic recording of the heart's rhythm during exertion. The exertion is created using a treadmill machine. This test helps to evaluate whether exercise can create an arrhythmia or make it worse. It also helps diagnose a condition involving flow of blood to the heart called ischemia.
An ECG rhythm is recorded for long and short periods of time. A Holter monitor is a 24-72 hour ECG. It is a device that measures and records the heart rhythm over 1-3 days. This test may be done when an ECG does not clearly show the arrhythmia, though it is suspected to be the underlying cause of the symptoms. In a ECG Rhythm test, patches with wires are placed on the patient's chest. The wires are connected to a portable monitor that can be attached to a purse or belt.
An external loop recorder is a device that monitors the heart rhythm and rate for up to one month. During this test, the patient wears a device on the wrist or around the waist. When symptoms are experienced, the patient presses a button on the device to make a recording of the heart activity that just occurred.
An insertable loop recorder is a device that continuously monitors the heart rhythm for up to 14 months. This small device is placed under the skin during a twenty-minute procedure using a local anesthetic. When a symptom is experienced, the patient places a hand-held activator over the recorder. Later, a physician analyzes the stored information. ECG rhythms help diagnose problems that can be cured when detected. It is just one of many applications of an ECG that has a life saving impact.