Electrocardiogram / ECG
An electrocardiogram, or ECG, is a test that measures the heart’s rhythm and electrical activity.
Electrical signals are what regulates your heart beat and keeps it pumping correctly – but these electrical signals can become disordered for a range of reasons. Some of these are benign and completely harmless (although they may still result in symptoms, such as palpitations), while others can indicate a serious underlying condition that may require further investigations, monitoring and treatment.
Conditions that can be detected by an ECG include heart rhythm disorders (arrhythmias) such as atrial fibrillation and supraventricular tachycardia, heart disease and cardiomyopathy (thickening of the heart walls). An ECG can also detect signs of heart attack. They are usually one of the first tests performed for people experiencing symptoms such as palpitations, breathlessness, chest pain and dizziness.
The procedure is carried out on an outpatient basis. You may be asked to change into a hospital gown before lying on a bed. The specialist will attach electrodes (small sensors attached to sticky patches) to your arms, legs and chest (it’s sometimes necessary to shave the area first). These are connected via cables to the ECG machine, which will measure and record your heart beat and the electrical activity in your heart while attached. ECGs don’t hurt and are very safe. The test usually takes a matter of minutes to complete. Afterwards, the electrodes will be gently removed and you’ll be able to get dressed and go home.
In some cases, ECGs can be performed while you’re walking or jogging on a running machine, to see how your heart responds to physical stress and exertion.
The findings will be closely assessed by a cardiologist and, if necessary, the results and any further investigations and treatment required will be discussed at a follow-up appointment.