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By: Molina Phear

What is an electrocardiogram (EKG)

An electrocardiogram machine is a device that connects to your chest cavity and interprets the electrical activity of the heart. There are six different electrodes what attach to the surface of the skin that monitor and record how fast your heart is beating, the rhythm of your heartbeats, and the strength and timing of electric signals as they pass through each part of the heart. There are also four other electrodes that connect to the arms and legs of the person.

Fig. 1: The different electrodes connect at different parts of the chest cavity.

How an EKG works

The EKG connects to different parts of the chest and torso to measure the electrical impulses that lead to heart contractions. Small pads are placed between the skin and the electrodes to improve electrical conductivity and reduce discomfort for the patient. The EKG pads are placed on the right arm, avoiding thick muscles; the opposite arm; the lateral calf muscles of both legs, between ribs four and five, to the right of the septum; between ribs four and five, to the left of the septum; between the two areas just stated; between the fifth and sixth rib, down along of the middle of the clavicle; along the left of the auxiliary line, horizontal from the previous electrode; and between the two previous electrodes along the maxillary line. The human body is made up of 80% water, making it a natural conductor of electricity. The procedure itself takes no longer than three or four minutes and the patient feels nothing during that time.

Fig. 2: The nurse or medical assistant are the ones who are mostly likely to do this procedure. The electrodes are connected to the patient and EKG machine and the machine records a hard copy of the hearts electrical activity.

Why do you need to get an EKG?

There are many reasons to why you need to get an EKG. IF you are experienced any symptoms like chest pain, shortness of breath, palpitations (fast heartbeat), anxiety, weakness, nausea and vomiting, abdominal pain, or have a history of fainting; it is suggested that you have an EKG done. You should also get an EKG done if you have an irregular heart rhythm (arrhythmias), any heart defects, problems with heart valves, if you have narrow or blockage in the arteries (coronary heart disease), or if you have had a heart attack.

What does an EKG measure?

An EKG measures the underlying rate and rhythm mechanism of the heart, the orientation (how it's placed) of the heart, if there is evidence of thickness in the heart muscle (hypertrophy), evidence of damage in various parts of the heart muscles, evidence of acutely impaired blood flow to the hearts and patterns of electrical activity that may cause the patient o have abnormal cardiac rhythm disturbances.