An electrocardiogram — abbreviated as EKG or ECG — is a test that measures the electrical activity of the heartbeat. With each beat, an electrical impulse (or “wave”) travels through the heart. This wave causes the muscle to squeeze and pump blood from the heart. A normal heartbeat on ECG will show the timing of the top and lower chambers. An ECG gives two major kinds of information.
First, by measuring time intervals on the ECG, a doctor can determine how long the electrical wave takes to pass through the heart. Finding out how long a wave takes to travel from one part of the heart to the next shows if the electrical activity is normal or slow, fast or irregular.
Second, by measuring the amount of electrical activity passing through the heart muscle, a cardiologist may be able to find out if parts of the heart are too large or are overworked. A recently implemented EKG management system permits the ordering physician to receive a copy of the EKG immediately after it has been interpreted.
An electrocardiogram (EKG, ECG) translates the heart’s electrical activity into line tracings on paper. The spikes and dips in the line tracings are called waves.
- The P wave is a record of the electrical activity through the upper heart chambers (atria).
- The QRS complex is a record of the movement of electrical impulses through the lower heart chambers (ventricles).
- The ST segment shows when the ventricle is contracting but no electricity is flowing through it. The ST segment usually appears as a straight, level line between the QRS complex and the T wave.
- The T wave shows when the lower heart chambers are resetting electrically and preparing for their next muscle contraction.
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