Rapper Bow Wow was recently diagnosed with tonsillitis while on tour down under in Australia. He confused his social media followers by posting an image showing EKG lead stickies attached to his torso. One reader was prompted to ask why Bow Wow needed an EKG for a sore throat.
An electrocardiogram is abbreviated as ECG or EKG — the latter is the German abbreviation for Elektro-kardiographie. An EKG is a portable machine that measures the electrical activity in the heart. The EKG is sensitive enough to measure every aspect of the heart’s function.
The EKG is used in conjunction with lab tests to determine the patient’s diagnosis.
The standard 12 lead EKG consists of 10 wires attached to sticky electrodes around the heart, on each arm and above the legs.
Interpreting an EKG strip requires extensive training. Doctors and nurses who specialize in interpreting EKGs look for a normal QRS wave complex preceded by a normal P wave and followed by a normal T wave.
This is an EKG graphic of a heart in normal sinus rhythm (normal heartbeat). Below is what an EKG strip actually looks like.
Doctors analyze the size and shape of each wave. They also look for inverted (upside down) waves, peaked waves and the distance between each wave. For example, an elevated ST wave indicates a heart attack.
If the electrical waves look abnormal on the EKG, the doctor will order more diagnostic tests or begin treatment immediately based on the EKG and lab tests. Some abnormal EKGs do not require any treatment.
Why Do I Need an EKG?
Doctors use EKG machines to diagnose heart attacks, Cardiac ischemia (heart tissue oxygenation), defects or abnormalities in the heart’s shape or size, electrolyte imbalances, irregular heart rate and rhythm, and more.
Panic attacks can trick patients into believing they are having a heart attack. The doctor will order an EKG to make sure the patient really is experiencing a panic attack and not a heart attack.
What Are Symptoms That May Require an EKG?
You should go to an emergency room if you experience:
This has been your Medical Minute.
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