EKG (electrocardiogram) tests help physicians determine the health of their patient’s heart, by detecting any abnormalities in heart activity. People who have a history of heart problems get regular EKG testing, the procedure being an essential part of their regular check-ups. EKG’s work by recording and displaying the heart’s electrical impulses through a series of electrodes attached to the patient’s body at strategic points. The results are displayed on a computer monitor in the form of a graph and then printed out.
The basic way doctors and EKG technicians analyze an EKG results graph is by comparing it with the results graph of a normal/standard heart. If they detect differences in the heart rate, rhythm or contraction patterns between the two graphs, it could mean possible heart problems. If such a reading occurs, then further testing is usually done to determine more precisely the causes of the heart abnormality.
To conduct such analysis, though, doctors try to first identify recurring patterns in a patient’s EKG readings. The heart rate is what they usually look at first. Heart rate can be determined by looking at the patterns of spikes and dips in an EKG graph. The first spike is called the “P” spike and it represents the electrical impulses being generated by the heart’s upper chamber. A flatter line, the “PR” line, stands for the time between contractions and relaxations of the atria.
Each EKG has its own pattern of spikes and dips, but all healthy hearts have a similar basic pattern that can be identified by EKG technicians and physicians trained to read EKG results. This basic, healthy pattern is called sinus arrhythmia. If a heart’s EKG pattern lacks sinus arrhythmia, meaning it differs too significantly from it, this is an indication of possible (or past) heart problems. In most cases, especially in ones where the results might seem ambiguous at first, the final, authoritative word rests on the analysis of the highly trained EKG technicians, not the doctors, as they are the ones who have the better training when it comes to interpreting EKG readings.
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