You have probably heard of the term ‘ECG’ before, and even without a medical background, you are aware that it stands for ‘electrocardiogram’. But aside from that piece of information, do you have any idea what it is for? Most people would shake their heads, as it never occurred to them to explore what an electrocardiogram does. If you are one of those people, and you want to know more about ECG, this article from the Cadence Heart Centre in Singapore is for you! We have prepared a list of questions to provide you with in-depth knowledge about electrocardiography.
But before anything else, let us answer the most crucial question first: how am I going to benefit from this information? The answer is simple: if you care about your personal and your loved ones’ health, you should know how to take care of it. In Singapore, heart disease ranks high in the list of the most common causes of death and hospitalization. From 1994 to 2012, the cardiology and cardiothoracic surgery departments in Singapore’s public instruction have recorded a 27% increase in specialist outpatient visits. The outpatient visits at the National Heart Centre Singapore (NHCS) also tripled within the same time period. Experts have predicted that the demand for cardiac-related services will continue to increase as the number of people with the age of 65 years and above is expected to triple in the next eight years. Then, combine this with the recent increase in sudden cardiac deaths in people below 35 years old, and you will begin to see the bigger picture: there is a necessity to pay more attention to matters that concern cardiac health.
And with that, let us begin with a quick definition: what is an ECG?
An electrocardiogram or ECG is a non-invasive diagnostic test that can measure and record the electrical activity of the human heart. This test gives the doctor a clear perspective on a patient’s cardiac condition, enabling him or her to detect irregularities in the heart’s rhythm or beating, signs of heart disease or blockage, cardiac birth defects, extent of damage from a previous heart attack, and anatomical deviations such as changes to the heart muscle or possible heart enlargements.
Why would you need an ECG?
You are quite the lucky one if you go through life without your doctor telling you that you need an ECG. That could only mean one thing: your heart is in good health. However, if you experience any of the symptoms below, a cardiologist may recommend an ECG:
- Pain in the chest area
- Difficulty in breathing or shortness of breath
- Irregular and/or abnormally fast heartbeat (palpitations)
- Weakness, dizziness, feeling light-headed, or fainting
A doctor may also recommend an ECG if a patient has cardiovascular risk factors like diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, ora history of heart attack/stroke/heart disease or sudden cardiac death in the family.
In some cases, an ECG is advised prior to a surgery or as a follow up to certain treatments for heart diseases.
How is an ECG done?
Prior to an ECG test in Singapore, the cardiologist or nurse will discuss the steps of the procedure with the patient. They will be asked to remove jewelry and clothing before the procedure. Once the patient is ready, electrodes will be placed on the chest, arms, and legs.
The ECG machine will be run to detect the heart’s electrical activity and the results are displayed in waves on a monitor or graph. The recording is completed in about five to eight minutes and when it is done, the nurse will disconnect the wires from the machine and remove the electrode patches. As a non-invasive procedure, the patient will not feel any pain during or post-ECG. There is no recovery time needed as well, so the patient can go home after the ECG test and resume his or her normal activities as soon as the test is finished.
What are the types of ECG?
An ECG test has three main types: resting ECG, exercise or stress ECG, and ambulatory ECG. The first one is done while the patient is lying flat and still on a bed. Exercise or stress ECG is conducted while the patient is running on a treadmill. Basically, this test is the same as jogging or using a treadmill in the gym, only with a cardiologist supervising the entire setup. Lastly, an ambulatory ECG test is performed with a small, portable ECG recording device strapped on the patient’s chest to monitor the activity of the heart for at least 24 hours. The patient can move around as he or she pleases while the device records the heart rhythm continuously.
When do I get the results of my ECG test?
You will get the results on the same day as the ECG test. But if the test is for screening purposes and there are no significant findings in the results, the cardiologist may ask you to return to the clinic or health facility another day to talk about the results.
Further confirmatory tests may be recommended depending on the doctor’s prognosis. Lifestyle and diet changes may also be advised for some patients. This is important because a lot of cardiac conditions can be avoided if a person practices good health habits, such as avoiding or quitting from smoking, eating a balanced diet, and engaging regularly in physical activities.
Last but not the least – does an ECG test have any harmful effects?
The best thing about ECG – aside from the fact that it is a very useful diagnostic tool – is that it is safe, with no risk or pain involved – at all! Despite relying on electric impulses to measure the heart’s rhythm, beat, palpitations, and signs of heart disease, you will not feel any electric current(not even a small amount) in your body. For many patients, the least comfortable part of the procedure is the removal of the electrode patches. Some say their skin feels sensitive after the patches are removed and in worse cases, the patches caused a minor allergic reaction to the skin where they were attached. But still, there’s nothing to worry about!
If you have any questions or doubts about electrocardiogram, you can contact us at the Cadence Heart Centre and we will be happy to accommodate your queries.
Cadence Heart Centre – Dr Devinder Singh
Mt Elizabeth Hospital, 3 Mount Elizabeth #14-13
Mt Elizabeth Medical Centre, Singapore 228510
(65) 8318 9884
(65) 6369 8789
(65) 6369 2789