by Rachel Bhan

Electrocardiogram or ECG or EKG, is a graph produced by an electrocardiograph, which records the electrical activity of the heart over time. An ECG determines the immediate effects of changes in activity or medication levels, if an individual is on medications that affects the heart or on a pacemaker. An ECG is a part of a routine examination in patients over 40 years old.

Analysis of the various waves and normal vectors of depolarization and repolarization provides important diagnostic information. The results are recorded on graph paper. ECG is used to measure the rate and regularity of heartbeats as well as the size and position of the chambers, the presence of any damage to the heart, and the effects of drugs or devices used to regulate the heart.

ECG is a reliable indicator for the diagnosis of cardiac arrhythmias and proves beneficial in detecting electrolyte imbalances. It analyses treatment and risk stratification for acute myocardial infarction patients. The electrocardiogram indirectly assesses the increased or decreased contractility of the heart. ECG also aids in detecting non-cardiac diseases, such as hypothermia and pulmonary embolism. It is a good screening equipment for ischemic heart disease in a cardiac stress test and detects conduction abnormalities.

The heart beats 50 to 100 times per minute and the rhythm is consistent and even. An abnormal ECG results may indicate heart enlargement, heart valve disease, arrythmia, defect in cardiac muscle, tachycardia, congenital defects, myocarditis, heart attack, eletrolyte imbalance and coronary heart disease.

A person who suspects heart disease or has had a heart attack may need more than one ECG. Healthy people need not undergo annual testing unless they have inherited risks or any other medical condition.

It is important to be stress-free, relaxed and relatively warm during ECG recording. Any movement, alters the tracing. No risks of shock are involved, as ECG merely monitors the electrical impulses and does not emit electricity

There are no restrictions for food or fluids. However, ingestion of cold water immediately before an ECG may produce changes in the waveforms recorded (the T wave). Consumption of medicines should be revealed to the physician.All jewelry is removed, before test and the medical gown is worn.

An arrhythmia is heartbeat irregularity, which causes the heart to skip a beat, beat irregularly or beat at the wrong pace. Digoxin belongs to the group of medicines termed as cardiac glycosides. Digoxin is used to treat arrhythmias and heart failure. Digoxin corrects irregular heartbeats to a normal rhythm and slows an overactive heart, especially after a heart attack.

Digoxin also strengthens the force of the heartbeat. Side effects include loss of appetite, headache, illness, diarrhoea, tummy pain, problems with eye sight , tiredness, rash, drowsiness, confusion, depression, or a fluttering heart beat. Changes are more extensive in digoxin toxicity. Other changes that may occur are prolonged PR waves, bradycardia, arrhythmia, and shortened QT waves.

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