What is an Electrocardiogram?
The electrocardiogram is a recording of the electrical activity of the heart. The heart has the ability to generate its own beat. The ability of the heart to generate its own beat resides in the specialized cardiac conduction tissue. The way this impulse is generated is very complex but in simple terms sodium, potassium and calcium ions are transferred between the outside and inside of the heart cell. This then causes an electrical current to flow which generates the heart beat. This electrical activity is transmitted throughout the body’s tissues and can be measured on the skin’s surface.
In 1901 Dr Willem Einthoven invented a very sensitive electrical monitoring which could measure these very small electrical signals which are evident at the skin’s surface. The recording of these signals has been standardized into what is known today as the 12 lead ECG. The test is very simple to perform and generally requires sensing electrodes to be applied to the skin which are held in place by self-adhesive pads. These electrodes are applied to both the arms and legs and 6 electrodes to the chest wall over the heart region. The electrical activity is then recorded by the recording equipment and this device will record and store the signals electronically they can be printed in paper format.
A detailed analysis of the timing sequence of the electrical signal as it transmits through the heart yields very important information regarding the normal electrical function of the heart and if they are abnormal will help identify the type of cardiac disease present.
This test is simple to perform and is generally risk-free. The only major risk that you may experience is an allergic reaction to the adhesive pads that maintain the skin electrodes in place. The recording performed records approximately 10 seconds of your heart rhythm and will generally record as many as 10 heart beats in total depending on your heart rate.
Generally all patients who visit a heart specialist will have an electrocardiogram performed at initial presentation and frequently at most presentations subsequently.
Please bring along your referral to the appointment.
If you have any further questions, please contact us at:
St Vincent’s Private Hospital Northside
North Medical Suites, Green Lifts Level 3,
627 Rode Road
Chermside Q 4032
(07) 3861 5522