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ECG Test: Overview, Procedure and Interpretation of Results


What Is ECG Test?


ECG or Electrocardiogram is a non-invasive test used to diagnose heart diseases and monitor your heart’s health. ECG records the electrical activity of your heart through electrodes or sensors that a technician attaches on your limbs and chest. Often heart diseases affect the electrical activity of the heart. With an ECG test, your doctor can detect or determine- 


  • Arrhythmias or irregular heart rhythm
  • Previous heart attack 
  • Whether the heart disease treatment is working or not
  • If blockage of coronary arteries are causing a heart attack or chest pain
  • Ischemia or inadequate blood supply to heart muscles
  • Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy or thickened heart muscles
  • Electrolyte abnormality, i.e., high or low calcium and potassium. 


ECG test


Your doctor may recommend an ECG test if you experience symptoms such as-


  • Chest pain
  • Heart palpitation or a sensation that your heart is throbbing or fluttering. 
  • Fast heart rate
  • Shortness of breath
  • Lightheadedness, confusion or dizziness
  • Fatigue, weakness 
  • Exercise intolerance or inability to perform exercise 


Your doctor may recommend an ECG test if you have a family history of heart disease since you’re at high risk of developing heart disease


ECG test


Types Of ECG Test 


Apart from the standard ECG, your doctor may suggest-


Holter Monitor– It is a small, portable device that records the heart’s electrical activity, usually for 24 to 48 hours. If you experience any symptoms such as heart palpitations, irregular heartbeat, or reduced blood flow to the heart, then your doctor may suggest you wear a Holter monitor. The electrodes will be attached to the chest, arms, and legs. Once they’re placed, you can return home and resume your normal activities. Click here to know more about Holter Monitor.


Event Monitor- It is a portable device that records the heart’s electrical activity for a longer duration of time. Event monitor will be apt when you experience symptoms now and then. You may need to wear an event monitor for weeks or even months. Whenever you feel symptoms, then you need to push a button, and it will record the electrical activity of your heart. Certain devices record automatically whenever it detects an abnormal rhythm in your heart. Browse here get detailed information about Event Monitor.


ECG Procedure


No preparations are required prior to an ECG test. But you need to inform your doctor regarding the medications and supplements that you normally take, since it may affect the test results.


You will be asked to wear a hospital gown. The technician may shave the body parts where the electrodes will be attached so that it sticks properly on your skin. During the ECG test, you need to lie down on an examining table or bed. Up to 12 electrodes with a gel will be attached to your limbs and chest. The electrode patches are connected to wires or electrical leads, that connect to a monitor. It records your heart’s electrical signals.The computer will record the information, and it will be displayed in the monitor in the form of waves. 


It’s extremely important to lay still during an ECG test since moving may distort the results. During the test, you can breathe normally. The procedure lasts for a few minutes. After the test, you can continue normal activities.


Average ECG test price is Rs 141. The starting price is Rs 100, and the test will cost you up to Rs 220. 


ecg test


Interpreting The Results Of ECG


Your doctor may discuss your ECG results with you either on your next appointment or on the same day when you have undergone an ECG. You don’t need to take further tests if your results are normal. But you need to take another diagnostic test or an ECG once again if your results indicate abnormal ECG. Further treatment is contingent on the cause of your symptoms. After reviewing the information, which was recorded during the test, the doctor will check for heart problems including- 


Heart Rhythm


With an ECG test, your doctor can detect arrhythmias or irregular heart rhythm. An arrhythmia occurs when any part of the electrical system fails to function normally. Certain medications also trigger Arrhythmia- 


  • Amphetamines
  • Beta-blockers
  • Over-the-counter allergy and cold medications
  • Cocaine 


Heart Rate 


Usually, by checking pulse, heart rate can be measured. An electrocardiogram will be beneficial when the pulse is difficult to check if it is too irregular or fast. Your doctor can diagnose Tachycardia or Bradycardia with an ECG. Tachycardia is a condition where the heart beats faster (more than 100 times a minute) whereas bradycardia is a medical condition where the heart beats much slower (less than 60 times a minute). 


Heart Attack


With an ECG test, your doctor can detect a previous heart attack or an impending heart attack. The ECG patterns indicate the damaged part of the heart and the extent of that damage. 


Structural Abnormalities Of Heart 


An ECG also detects enlargement of heart chambers or walls and numerous heart diseases. 


Insufficient Oxygen And Blood Supply To The Heart 


When you undergo an ECG test, while you are experiencing symptoms, your doctor can ascertain whether the cause of chest pain is inadequate blood flow to the heart, for instance, unstable angina, where the chest pain is its major symptom. 

Suppose your doctor detects any problem on your ECG, then you need to take further tests to ascertain whether a treatment is required or not.


Frequently Asked Questions 


What is a normal ECG reading?


Normal value, when you’re not active ranges from 60 to 100 beats per minute(bpm). This is the normal value of people over ten years, including older adults. 


Can an ECG detect a blocked artery?


Yes. By evaluating the shape and size of ECG waves, your doctor can detect blocked arteries in your heart. A blocked artery causes chest pain or heart attack, which is a medical emergency that needs immediate treatment. 


Can ECG detect heart attack?


Yes. An ECG test is often used to diagnose a heart attack. With an ECG test, your doctor can detect a previous heart attack or an impending heart attack, since injured heart muscles normally won’t conduct electrical impulses. The ECG also detects the type of heart attack that you had, which is useful in determining the treatment. 


If ECG is normal is my heart ok?


A person with normal ECG can still have heart disease if the medical condition doesn’t disrupt the heart’s electrical activity. Suppose if heart disease is suspected in that person, then the doctor may recommend other diagnostic tests


What is the difference between ECG and Echo?


ECG measures the electrical efficiency of your heart. But the downside of ECG is that it’s not accurate in assessing the heart’s pumping capacity. For that purpose, an echo or echocardiogram is used. It uses ultrasound waves to produce images of your heart. Echocardiogram measures the velocity of blood that leaves the heart, the shape and size of the heart, and how the blood flows through the heart. 


What are the risks associated with ECG?


ECG is considered a safe procedure. Since the electrode patches never produce an electric shock, electrical shock is not a concern. When the technician removes the electrodes, you may experience minor discomfort. Some may develop a minor rash in areas where the electrodes were attached. 


What does an abnormal ECG indicate?


Abnormal ECG results signify different issues. It can be heart rate abnormalities, heart rhythm abnormalities, electrolyte imbalance, abnormality in size and shape of the heart and medication side effects.