What is an ECG? – Broadgate Clinic London Wall explains

An ECG, (or to give it is full name, an electrocardiogram), is a special sort of medical test that has been designed to report on any electrical problems with heart function. If you live and/or work in London, and you are concerned about heart health, you can use the walk in health screen services we offer here at Broadgate Clinic London Wall. We have the latest medical equipment and can arrange an immediate ECG once you’ve undergone a brief consultation with one of our experienced clinicians.

The heart is stimulated by natural electricity

Talking about electrical function might at first sound strange, but the fact of the matter is that you heart is driven by your body’s natural electrical system. This natural electricity stimulates the heart muscle, making it contract and thereby causing it to pump blood through its chambers, to the lungs, and around the rest of the body.

The job the heart does

The human heart fulfils two main functions. In the first instance it receives deoxygenated blood, which it then pumps through to the lungs for re-oxygenation. The deoxygenated blood arrives into the heart’s right atrium. From there it is pumped into the right ventricle for delivery to the lungs. Once oxygenated, the blood is then returned to the left atrium of the heart. It is then directed into the left vertical, and from there it gets pumped into your circulation system. An ECG measures this electrical activity and translates it onto a graph.

How an ECG works

An electrocardiogram uses non-invasive technology to go about its business. Small metal sensors are attached the outside surface of the skin on your arms, legs, and chest. The sensors then measure the electrical signals and the ECG machine then interprets them into a particular waveform.

The heart waveform cycle

There are basically 3 parts to each waveform cycle:

   The P wave

   The QRS complex

   The T wave

During an ECG test, (which takes about 5 minutes), the waveforms are recorded from each of the different sensors. Any abnormalities from what is considered the standard waveform patterns, (the patterns from each sensor are different), may indicate a specific type of heart problem.

What ECGs are used to detect

ECGs are used to search for various heart conditions including:

   To trace the cause of unexplained chest pain

   An abnormal heart rhythm

   A myocardial infarction (heart attack)

   An enlarged heart (Hypertrophy)

   To check the pace-maker function

There are however, certain conditions an ECG cannot detect, such as an intermittent irregular heartbeat, if the test is carried out when the beat is normal. Another condition that an ECG cannot detect is Angina.

Preparing for an ECG

You should not undertake any strenuous physical activity immediately before undergoing an ECG. Try to remain calm and stress free. Men will be asked to remove any top clothing (jackets, jumpers, shirts and vests). Women must also bare the upper part of their bodies but are able to keep their bras on. Women are often offered a cloth or paper covering, while men normally take the ECG bare-chested. Any items of jewellery such as necklaces or chains should be removed.

How the test is performed

Subjects undergoing an ECG are instructed to lie on their backs on a bed or table. Areas on the subject’s arms chest and legs will be cleaned with alcohol, and if any hair is present, may be shaved in order to provide a smooth surface on which the electrodes can be placed. Before the electrodes are put into position the clinician will either smear the areas where the electrodes are to be placed with ECG paste, or apply small alcohol soaked pads, in order to improve conductivity.

Once the electrodes have been placed in position you will be instructed to lie still and refrain from talking while the readings are taken. You may on occasion be asked to hold your breath. The procedure only takes about 5 minutes.

Using the walk-in health screening services of Broadgate Clinic London Wall for your ECG

It is not recommended to undergo an ECG unless you believe you may have a problem. If you are concerned about heart health, and you live and/or work in London, you can use the walk-in health screening services of Broadgate Clinic London Wall at a time most convenient to you and your employer between 08:00 to 18:30 from Monday to Thursday, or 08:00 to 17:30 on Fridays.