What are EKG Technicians

EKG (electrocardiogram) - measure heart currents

The heart is a muscle that regularly contracts and relaxes again through electrical signals. Its clock is the so-called sinus node in the right atrium of the heart. From there, the electrical voltage spreads over the whole heart and stimulates it to pump. This electrical activity can also be measured on the skin and made visible in the EKG as a heart current curve.

When is an EKG done?

If you have chest tightness or your heart is racing suddenly and without physical exertion, it may be caused by heart disease. In the case of heart problems, the attending physician usually arranges for an ECG examination. This determines how often the heart beats per minute, whether the heartbeat is regular and whether the cardiac current curve is correct.

In a healthy heart, typical, regularly repeating spikes and waves appear on the EKG. Deviations from this characteristic ECG pattern can indicate various heart diseases. For example, the doctor can use this to read cardiac arrhythmias, i.e. whether the heartbeat is irregular. In some cases, an EKG can also provide information about a weakened pumping power, the so-called heart failure, or an insufficient supply of oxygen to the heart. A cardiologist can also detect a heart attack, an enlarged heart or disturbances in the mineral and salt balance on the EKG.

For people of middle or older age, an ECG is often made during routine or preventive examinations.

How does the ECG examination work?

With a standard ECG, the so-called 12-channel ECG, you lie relaxed on a couch. It is also known as a resting EKG.

In order to measure the electrical currents of the heart, small self-adhesive metal plates - the electrodes - are attached to the skin: on the one hand on the chest as so-called chest wall leads, on the other hand on the arms and legs as limb leads. If there is a lot of hair on the chest or legs, the areas are shaved beforehand. A gel may also be applied to improve the contact between the electrodes and the skin. The electrodes are connected by cables to a device that measures the electrical impulses, amplifies them and then converts them into curves. Depending on the device type, the curves are either printed out or shown on the screen.

The EKG is a painless, risk-free examination and usually takes about two minutes.

Special forms of the EKG examination

If your symptoms only occur during physical activity or are very irregular, the doctor can also perform a stress or long-term ECG on you.

Exercise ECG

In order to detect changes in the heart that only cause symptoms during physical exertion, you have to be active during this type of ECG examination and, for example, pedal properly.

An exercise ECG is usually carried out on a bicycle ergometer - other options are hand-cranked ergometers or treadmills. The resistance is then continuously increased according to your age, so that it becomes more and more strenuous for you to pedal. Pulse, blood pressure and heart are monitored all the time. If there are precisely defined changes in the ECG, high blood pressure or physical warning signs such as paleness, shortness of breath or chest pain, the examination is stopped immediately. Muscle pain, on the other hand, is normal, especially in the untrained.

In order to keep the risk of a stress ECG as low as possible, this examination is usually preceded by a resting ECG and a detailed physical examination by a doctor. No stress ECG is performed immediately after a heart attack or if the heart muscle is inflamed.

The stress ECG is mainly used to assess whether you suffer from cardiac arrhythmias. It can also provide evidence of constricted coronary arteries, i.e. coronary artery disease. It can also be used to monitor cardiac medication therapy that has already started or to assess the physical fitness of healthy people.

Long-term ECG

In people whose heart suddenly starts racing irregularly and without physical activity, a resting ECG over two minutes is often unremarkable.

If you have these symptoms or if you feel dizzy more often, a long-term EKG can help to identify cardiac causes such as irregular heartbeat. This type of EKG examination can also be used to check a pacemaker.

To do this, the doctor sticks electrodes on your chest, which are connected to a small portable device that can be worn around the neck or on a belt. The device continuously records the heart's action over a period of 24 to 48 hours.

Your job is to act as normal as ever. Do what you would do without an EKG machine. Only in this way does the evaluation later also reflect your everyday (heart) activity. It is only important that you keep a log of your activities and rest phases during the entire measurement. You should also make a note of this if you experience discomfort, are emotionally stressed or take medication. This enables the doctor to better classify any abnormal heart current curves.