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Electrocardiogram

An electrocardiogram (EKG, ECG) is a test that measures the electrical signals that control the rhythm of your heartbeat.

The heart is a muscular pump made up of four chambers. The two upper chambers are called atria, and the two lower chambers are called ventricles. A natural electrical system causes the heart muscle to contract and pump blood through the heart to the lungs and the rest of the body.

The electrical activity of the heart can be detected through the skin by small metal discs called electrodes. During an electrocardiogram, the electrodes are attached to the skin on the chest, arms, and legs. The electrodes are also connected to a machine that translates the electrical activity into line tracings on paper. These tracings are often analyzed by the machine and then carefully reviewed by a doctor for abnormalities.

An electrocardiogram may show:

  • Evidence of heart enlargement.
  • Signs of insufficient blood flow to the heart.
  • Signs of a new or previous injury to the heart (heart attack)
  • Heart rhythm problems (arrhythmias).
  • Changes in the electrical activity of the heart caused by an electrolyte imbalance in the body.
  • Signs of inflammation of the sac surrounding the heart (pericarditis).
 

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