What does an EKG Machine do?

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Doctors might suggest you to do an electrocardiogram test to check for chances of heart ailments. This test records the electrical activity through the small electrode patches attached to the skin of your arms, chest and legs. A EKG Machine can help healthcare technicians perform this test in a safe, easy and painless manner to regulate your heart rhythm, diagnose chances of a heart attack, check for ischemia or poor blood flow to the heart muscle, detect significant electrolyte abnormalities and check on abnormal things like thickened heart muscle.

While the EKG machines have gained massive popularity in the medical sector, advancement in technology have added greater portability to these new age devices. The versatility level has been further accentuated by the wave of digitization which has made its components more compact to make the heart monitoring process easier. Peacemaker cells at our upper right heart chamber sends electrical impulses which helps our heart in beating at a regular rhythm. These impulses can be read and depicted on a graph by the EKG machine. The standard devices are accompanied with 12 leads which can collate information from 12 different regions of our heart. These heart rhythms are examined by our doctors during the diagnosis to help with the treatment of cardiac issues.

EKG devices were first introduced during the beginning of 20th century which heralded the onset of a medical technology revolution. Doctors started banking on this unique combination of technology and medical science for treating even the most complicated of cases. Initially the EKG machines helped in understanding the structure and function of the human heart. It took the shape of a popular diagnostic equipment by 1950s which eventually led to the discovery of the modern-day 12-lead EKG. These devices kept on being more sensitive and indispensable as the decades kept on passing. The standard sized models can be wheeled around on carts in the hospital room to help with easy transportation. The machines can either send a digital file through email or create physical paper graphs for being stored in your medical file.

The EKG machines were initially were bulky in stature which made it difficult to carry around in ambulances due to space crisis. This led to an increasing requirement of portable EKG devices in emergency medical vehicles and doctor’s offices for offering a fast way to get readings. The advent of Internet based technology and Wi-Fi is currently allowing doctors to access the EKG report without being tied down to the hospital room.  

EKG machines can be broadly classified into portable and standard varieties. Apart from the obvious size factor, there also exists an array of other differences. The standard devices offer a constant heart rhythm reading but becomes difficult to use while having to monitor patients over a prolonged time span. Handheld EKG machines, on the other hand, reads the information and stores it for future reference of doctors. The advanced ones are programmed to send the reports to the hospital so that the medical experts can access the same on real-time basis and notice all anomalies before the patient’s next scheduled hospital visit.

EKG machines save lives every day by reading the heart rhythm. Lets now take a brief look at the different heart related conditions which it can diagnose efficiently:

  • Arrhythmia refers to an alteration in the normal electrical pulses of our heart which can lead to faster or slower beating. While it might not pose as an immediate threat, it can lead to organ failures if left undetected for long. Normal heart beats at 50 to 100 times per minute. Arrhythmia can be triggered by an array of factors ranging from changes in heart muscle to electrolyte imbalances in the blood, coronary artery disease, injury afflicted from a heart attack etc. The symptoms of Arrhythmia are shortness of breath, weakness, pounding in your chest, palpitations, dizziness etc. Doctors diagnose Arrhythmia by advising an array of tests like event monitor, holter monitor, head-up tilt table test, cardiac catheterization, electrocardiogram, electrophysiology study, echocardiogram and stress test. The treatment of Arrhythmia depends entirely on the level of seriousness. While some people require no treatment, others have to take medication, make lifestyle changes and even undergo surgical procedures in extreme cases. Arrhythmia is treated by administering Antiarrhythmic drugs including beta-blockers which control the heart rate and advocating antiplatelet or anticoagulant therapy which tend to bring down chances of blood clots or stroke. However, each one of us is different from others and thus it is imperative to seek out proper medical advice before determining the one that is best suited for you. Doctors might even suggest making certain lifestyle changes like limiting the intake of alcohol, limiting the use of caffeine, staying away from the use of stimulants in cold and cough medicines as these can also help in curing Arrhythmia.
  • Ischemia occurs when our blood vessels get clogged due to increasing age making it difficult to pump blood through the veins. Insufficient blood supply is synonymous with insufficient oxygen supply in our body. The main reason behind Ischemia is atherosclerosis or plaque build-up in our arteries. Plaque refers to a hard and sticky substance comprising of fat which builds up and hardens over time by narrowing your arteries. Ischemia is also caused by blood clot which leads to a sudden stoppage of the blood flow. Often a piece of clot can trigger further problems for the other parts of your body by breaking off from the source. Ischemia can lead to a variety of problems and some of them can even take life-threatening forms depending on the body part affected by it. In case of heart, it leads to irregular heartbeat, heart attack and heart failure. In rare cases it can also lead to cardiac death or acute chest pain. Ischemia in brain causes stroke whereas the one in legs causes peripheral artery disease which ends in intense pain even while resting. Often patients can lose their leg if Ischemia is left untreated for long.

Final Words

You need to avoid all greasy or oily lotions and skin creams on the day of the test as they prevent the electrodes from making proper skin contact. Full length hosiery also should be avoided so that the electrodes can be directly placed on your legs. You will have to lay down flat during the test as the computer creates an image of the electrical impulses on a graph paper. While this form of test is known as resting EKG, it can also be performed for checking your heart condition while being engaged in physical activities.

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