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Everything You Ever Needed to Know About EKG Machines



A middle-aged man shows up at a hospital complaining of severe chest pains. Within a few minutes, a nurse hooks him up to a nurse hooks him up to an EKG machine and begins to track his heartbeat on the monitor. He calls a cardiologist to the bedside, and she notices a number of alarming irregularities. Within an hour, the patient is on the operating table, undergoing a triple bypass surgery to clear his blood vessels of deadly obstructions.


EKG's: Lifesaving Medical Devices

This scenario plays itself out again and again in hospitals and urgent care centers all over the country. The man in the story could be one of many who owes his life to the diagnostic potentials of the EKG. Every day, this critical medical device helps countless patients in less dramatic, but no less important ways.

What are EKG's? How do they work? Why do physicians use them? What do they reveal and what donít they reveal? Whether youíre a healthcare professional, a hospital administrator, or a patient, hereís everything you need to know to understand the EKG.

What is an EKG Machine?

An electrocardiogram, also known as an EKG machine, is a medical device that measures the electrical signals of the heart. Electrodes attached to the skin capture the heartís activity over a period of time, sending it back to a machine that records and interprets the information.

Doctors use the device to monitor the heartís activity and to uncover the causes of chest pain or other worrying symptoms of heart disease. Although an EKG cures nothing, it can alert physicians to a life-threatening condition. That can speed up the delivery of treatment and improve the overall quality of care

How Do EKG's Work?

In order to understand how an EKG works, itís first necessary to understand how the heart works. The heart is composed of four chambersótwo upper chambers called the atria, and two lower chambers called the ventricles. When the body sends electrical signals to the heart, it contracts, pumping blood through its chambers and out through the blood vessels of the body.

An EKG measures the electrical signals that cause the heart to contract.Electrodes attached to the skin of the torso near the heart pick up the signals and then transmit them through wires to a box. The screen then displays the information as a series of line tracings, or spikes and dips called waves.

Since the human heartís electrical activity is relatively weak, compared to modern electrical devices, the electrodes have to be extremely sensitive in order to record the minute changes that occur between heartbeats. The placement of the electrodes is also critical, as theyíre designed to pick up specific cardiac signals emanating from specific parts of the heart.

EKG Equipment

EKG equipment typically consists of a set of electrodes, which come with adhesive so they can stick to a patientís skin, and a small box, which contains the recording machine. The machine displays the information in real-time, either on a screen or on a paper print-out, so doctors can immediately determine if thereís a problem. A medical assistant can also print or email the line tracings in order to share the results with the patient or with other medical professionals.

Technicians can also connect modern-day EKG's directly to a laptop or desktop computer, as well as to a tablet or smartphone. That allows for more control, larger display options, and greater mobility.The increasing portability and versatility of contemporary EKG machines are critical in a variety of clinical settings, from busy doctorís offices to emergency departments.

The Evolution of the EKG

Electrocardiograms have a long history. For centuries, scientists have known that the heart produces electrical signals. It wasnít until the turn of the last century, however, that they learned how to capture those signals.

In 1903, a Dutch scientist named Willem Einthoven figured out how to record the heartís electrical patterns so that medical professionals could monitor its activity and check its health. Einthovenís first EKG, weighing a grand total of 600 lbs., provided the first non-invasive method for interpreting and recording the electrical signals of the heart.

As technology progresses, so does medical equipment. The EKG machine is no exception. These days, electrocardiograms are no longer 600 lb. behemoths; instead, theyíre small, lightweight machines that can be moved from room to room quickly, as the need arises.

Why Are EKG's So Important?

An electrocardiogram remains one of the most useful diagnostic tools in the physicianís arsenal. Through a quick, simple, and non-invasive procedure, an EKG machine can:

  • Record the heart rate
  • Determine the regularity of heartbeats
  • Measure the size of the heartís chambers
  • Calculate the position of the chambers
  • Reveal diseased or damaged tissue

An EKG can provide a baseline picture of a patientís heart health or a snapshot of the heart at any one moment. By comparing the two, medical professionals can track a patientís progress over time and determine whether they are progressing, regressing, or staying the same.

These days, veterinarians also use EKG's to check up on the health of animals. Such a simple diagnostic test is crucial for uncovering hidden problems in patients who canít describe their symptoms.

Why Do Doctors Order EKG's?



A physician may order an EKG for many reasons.1 Emergency departments use them to determine whether someone is having a heart attack. Cardiologists use them to monitor their patientsí progress and to test the effectiveness of different medications. A primary care physician may simply want a routine look at a patientís heart.

Physicians and their assistants may use an electrocardiogram to:

  • Monitor the patientís heart for a specific period of time
  • Check up on the patient's overall health
  • Test for heart disease
  • Test for effectiveness of heart medications
  • Test other medications for cardiovascular side effects
  • Check how well pacemakers or other implanted medical devices are working
  • Determine if the heartís chamber walls are too thick

While additional tests may be needed in order to confirm a diagnosis, an EKG is usually the firstdiagnostic test a doctor will perform. Thatís because itís the quickest, simplest, least invasive and most effective way to test for a range of heart problems.

What Conditions Can an EKG Diagnose?



An electrocardiogram can pick up a wide array of irregularities. Some of the most common conditions uncovered by EKG machines include:

  • Arrhythmias: Sometimes the heart beats too fast. Sometimes it beats too slow. Sometimes it skips beats. When the heartís rhythm is irregular, itís called an arrhythmia, which can range from benign to life-threatening.
  • Heart murmurs: When the heart gets insufficient blood flow, it makes a sound called a murmur. Although common and typically normal, murmurs can sometimes indicate an underlying problem such as a blocked blood vessel.
  • Myocardial Infarction: A heart attack, also known as a myocardial infarction, occurs when the heart stops beating.

When Might a Doctor Order an EKG?

A doctor may order an EKG if a patient complains of one or more of the following symptoms, each which could be a sign of heart disease :2

  • Chest pains
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness or weakness
  • Fainting spells
  • Palpitations (irregular heartbeats)
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Nausea and sweating



Healthcare professionals may also order an EKG if a patient displays the symptoms of an acute heart attack, which include:

  • Pain, pressure, or discomfort in the chest and arm areas
  • Pain or discomfort that radiates to the jaw, throat, back, or arm
  • A feeling of fullness or indigestion
  • Fainting spells
  • Vomiting accompanied by nausea and sweating
  • Shortness of breath
  • Extreme weakness or fatigue

Where Can MedicalFacilities Get EKG Machines?

Healthcare facilities can get the latest EKG machines at Medical Device Depot. Whether they need a portable, stand-alone EKG for an emergency department, a laptop-connected EKG for a cardiologistís office, or an EKG specifically designed for veterinary offices, they can find everything they need by browsing through the online catalog.

Sources
1.) http://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/electrocardiogram#1
2.) http://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/guide/heart-disease-symptoms#1

 
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