An electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG) measures the electrical activity in your heart via electrodes that your doctor places on your chest, arms, and legs. The electrodes send your heart’s signals either to styluses that create waveforms on a printer or directly to a computer that creates digital waveforms.
An EKG measures the contractions in different areas of the heart to be sure they’re working correctly. Each EKG cycle consists of a:
- P wave — atrium (i.e., upper heart chambers)
- QRS complex — one beat in right and left ventricles (i.e., lower heart chambers)
- T wave — repolarization (i.e., recovery) of the ventricles
The EKG doesn’t send electricity into your heart. It merely tracks your heart’s own electrical patterns.
Kimberly Bolling, MD, an expert and caring clinician, recommends EKGs to monitor your heart health. We have our own EKG machine in our Bowie, Maryland, office so you get your results right away.
Why would your Dr. Bolling recommend an EKG? Following are the three most common reasons.
1. Investigate chest pains or heart symptoms
If you feel tightness or pain in your chest, find it hard to breathe, or suffer pains in your left arm, you may be having a heart attack.
When you complain of chest- or heart-related issues, Dr. Bolling performs an EKG, which can tell her if you’ve had a heart attack in the past and can even indicate if you’re having one right then.
Events and symptoms that may prompt Dr. Bolling to perform an EKG include:
- Shortness of breath
- Chest or left-arm pain
- Irregular heartbeat
- Dizziness or fainting
- Severe fatigue
- Tightness in chest
Once she sees your EKG results, she may recommend follow-up tests, such as an echocardiogram. Or, if your EKG is normal, she explores other reasons for your symptoms, which may also include further tests.
2. Evaluate pacemaker or heart medications
Before Dr. Bolling prescribes heart medications, she orders an EKG to get a better look at the structure of your heart and the health of your blood vessels.
After you start taking your medications, she continues to monitor your cardiovascular health with periodic EKGs. These help her determine if your medication is working or if it needs to be adjusted.
If you have a pacemaker, Dr. Bolling recommends regular EKGs. An EKG can identify any problems with a pacemaker so it can be adjusted or replaced, if necessary. The placement of electrodes for the EKG is different for a pacemaker than without it.
3. Establish heart health
Especially if you or a family member has a history of heart disease or high blood pressure, Dr. Bolling recommends a baseline EKG so we know what “normal” looks like for you — before you develop any heart-related symptoms. We then compare the baseline EKG with future EKGs to identify and track any important changes.
Dr. Bolling also requires an EKG if you’re interested in medically supervised weight loss. She must be sure you’re healthy enough to engage in an exercise plan or take certain medications that jump-start weight loss.
Finally, you must have an EKG before undergoing surgery. Your doctor must know if your heart is healthy enough to withstand the stress and trauma of an operation.
Do you need an EKG for chest pain, heart health, or as a baseline? Contact our friendly team for an EKG today by calling 301-352-0090 or requesting an appointment online.