EKG - Electrocardiogram
Electrocardiograms most commonly known as EKG or ECG's are one of the most important chest pain protocol tests conducted in the Emergency Room.
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What is an EKG?
An EKG is a test that measures the electrical impulses of the heart and reveals important information related to the patient's heart rate and rhythm.
By strategically attaching small electrode patches to the skin of the patient’s chest, arms, and legs, doctors are able to:
- Check the patient’s heart rhythm.
- Determine if there is poor blood flow to the heart muscle, a condition known as ischemia.
- Diagnose a heart attack.
- Check abnormalities like thickening of the heart muscle.
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How Do EKG's Work &
What Information Do They Provide?
EKG’s performed in the emergency department provide two types of information:
With every heartbeat, an electrical wave travels through the heart causing it to squeeze and pump blood. By measuring the time intervals on an EKG, physicians can determine how long the electric wave takes to travel from the upper to the lower chambers of the heart and then return to the ventricles resting state. This information serves to determine if the electrical activity is normal or slow, fast, or irregular.
Secondly, by measuring the amount of electrical activity passing through the heart muscle, ER doctors can discover if parts of the heart are enlarged or are overworked and if there is evidence of a myocardial infarction or heart attack.
When Are EKG's Required?
Electrocardiograms are a standard procedure of our chest pain protocol and are performed in our emergency department on patients who complain of one or more of the following symptoms:
- Unusual heart palpitations not caused by physical activity.
- Unexplained rapid pulse.
- Chest pain.
- Pain that spreads to the shoulders, neck, or arms.
- Shortness of breath.
- Dizziness, lightheadedness, or confusion.
- Weakness, fatigue, or a decline in ability to exercise.
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How Important Are EKG's in an Emergency Room?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), every 40 seconds someone in the United States has a heart attack. And every emergency physician knows that during a heart attack, time is of the essence.
Prepping a patient and performing an EKG can take 10 minutes or less, the actual electrical impulse reading takes only a few seconds, and it can help doctors determine:
- Irregularities in heart rhythm.
- If blocked or narrowing of the arteries (coronary artery disease) in a patient’s heart is responsible for the chest pain and if it is causing a heart attack.
- Diagnose structural problems in any of the heart’s chambers.
- Determine if there are signs of previous heart attacks.
Obtaining this information in a fast manner increases the survival rate of patients who may be suffering from a heart attack or have some form of severe heart disease.
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