ECG test looks at the electrical activity of your heart as it beats. The pattern of impulses produced is very revealing; it can show if you have had a heart attack, either recently or in the past, or if you have problems with the regularity of your heartbeat. It can also show if your heart is larger than normal, or if some of the walls are thicker than they should be.
Types of ECG test
- A standard ECG, also called a resting ECG test, is done as an outpatient procedure and takes about an hour. You will have electrode patches stuck onto your skin at various points on your chest, arms and legs and the electrical activity of your heart will be measured while you sit quietly for about 15 minutes.
- An exercise ECG test, or exercise stress test, or exercise tolerance test, investigates what happens to your heart when you are active, either on an exercise bike or a treadmill. The pace will be easy to start with and then you will be asked to exercise harder. You can stop at any time if you experience chest pain or discomfort.
- An ambulatory ECG or 24-hour ECG test requires you to be fitted with electrodes while you are in The Physicians’ Clinic. These are attached to a monitor that you can wear on a belt around your waist. You can then leave the clinic and you wear this for 24 hours while the pattern of your heartbeat is monitored constantly as you go about your usual activities.
- Cardiac event monitoring is a longer-term ECG that can be done using a recording device placed under your skin. This can monitor heart function for up to a year. Other devices are not implanted, but you just hold them to your chest if you experience symptoms such as palpitations.
Why would I need an ECG test?
Electrocardiography is an extremely useful diagnostic and monitoring tool. It is usually the first test used to investigate symptoms that suggest a problem with the heart. It can show how well your heart is pumping blood, how good your heart rhythm is and whether there are signs of heart damage. An ECG can also be used to measure progress after treatment, for example after a coronary artery bypass graft (CABG), or following an angioplasty.