Heart Rhythm Tests
Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG)
An electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) is one of the simplest and fastest procedures used to evaluate the heart. Electrodes (small, plastic patches) are placed at certain locations on the chest, arms, and legs. When the electrodes are connected to an ECG machine by lead wires, the electrical activity of the heart is measured, interpreted, and printed out for the doctor's information and further interpretation.
Types of Electrocardiograms
This test monitors the heart's activity at rest.
This test monitors the heart's activity under conditions of physical exercise. It is used for the evaluation of exercise capacity, for the detection of coronary disease and the assessment of its severity, for prediction of cardiovascular risk, and for monitoring the response to treatment.
Performed for 15-20 minutes, information obtained from this test is processed by a computer to permit detection of cardiac abnormalities that might not be detected by standard ECG. Signal-Averaged ECG is used when arrhythmia is suspected but not seen on a resting ECG, since arrhythmias may be transient in nature and not seen during the short recording time of the resting ECG.
The Holter monitor is a type of electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) used to monitor the ECG tracing continuously for a period of 24 hours or longer. A standard or "resting" ECG is one of the simplest and fastest procedures used to evaluate the heart. Electrodes (small, plastic patches) are placed at certain locations on the chest and abdomen. When the electrodes are connected to an ECG machine by lead wires, the electrical activity of the heart is measured, interpreted, and printed out for the doctor's information and further interpretation.
Event monitoring is very similar to Holter monitoring, and is often ordered for the same reasons. With an event monitor, you wear ECG electrode patches on your chest, and the electrodes are connected by wire leads to a recording device.
Unlike the Holter monitor, however, which records continuously throughout the testing period of 24 to 48 hours, the event monitor records when you feel symptoms and trigger the monitor to record your ECG tracing at that time. An auto-trigger event monitor may be used to record rhythms when symptoms are rare or suspected to occur during sleep. The auto-trigger event monitor automatically records rhythm events that are faster or slower than normal and can also be manually activated if you experience symptoms.
Electrophysiology (EP) Study
An electrophysiology (EP) study is a test that records the electrical activity and the electrical pathways of your heart. This test is used to help determine the cause of your heart rhythm disturbance and the best treatment for you. During the EP study, your doctor will safely reproduce your abnormal heart rhythm and then may give you different medications to see which one controls it best or to determine the best procedure or device to treat your heart rhythm.
Why is EP Study Needed?
The beating of the heart is controlled by the heart’s electrical system. The electrical system controls the speed and rhythm of your heartbeat. If a problem occurs in the electrical system, the heart rhythm may be disrupted resulting in an irregular heart beats or arrhythmias. These arrhythmias can cause the heart to pump less effectively.
In order to diagnose an arrhythmia, your physician would order a test. The test or otherwise known as an EP study is an invasive test to study the electrical activity of the heart by inserting one or more catheters from the blood vessels in the groin region to inside the heart chambers.
An EP Study Would
- Determine the cause of an abnormal heart rhythm
- Locate the site of the origin of the abnormal rhythm
- Provide accurate information to determine the best treatment for an abnormal rhythm