Because there are so many different types of arrhythmias (fast rhythms, slow rhythms and extra heart beats), it’s important to find a heart specialist (electrophysiologist) in a dedicated heart center that specializes in arrhythmia. Several tests are available to help your doctor understand the symptoms you are experiencing and decide on a treatment plan that is right for you.
For more information or to schedule an appointment, call us at 314-996-3627 or contact us online.
There are several different types of procedures that may be used to diagnose arrhythmias. Some of these procedures include the following:
Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG)
An electrocardiogram is a measurement of the electrical activity of the heart. By placing electrodes at specific locations on the body (chest, arms, and legs), a graphic representation, or tracing, of the electrical activity can be obtained as the electrical activity is recorded by an ECG machine. An ECG can indicate the presence of arrhythmias, damage to the heart caused by ischemia (lack of oxygen to the heart muscle) or myocardial infarction (MI, or heart attack), a problem with one or more of the heart valves, or other types of heart conditions.
There are several variations of the ECG test:
For a resting ECG procedure, the clothing on the upper body is removed and small sticky patches called electrodes are attached to the chest, arms, and legs. These electrodes are connected to the ECG machine by wires. The ECG machine is then started and records the heart's electrical activity for a minute or so. The patient is lying down during this test.
Exercise ECG, or Stress Test
For the Stress Echocardiogram, the patient is attached to the ECG machine as described above. However, rather than lying down, the patient exercises by walking on a treadmill or pedaling a stationary bicycle while the ECG is recorded. This test is done to assess changes in the ECG during stress such as exercise.
Electrophysiologic studies (EPS)
An invasive test in which a small, thin catheter is inserted in a blood vessel in the leg and threaded to the heart while being monitored via X-ray. The patient is awake and lightly sedated. This gives the electrophysiologist the capability of finding the site of the arrhythmia's origin within the heart tissue, thus determining how to best treat it.
A Holter Monitor is an ECG recording done over a period of 24 or more hours. Three electrodes are attached to the patient's chest and connected to a small portable ECG recorder by lead wires. The patient goes about his/her usual daily activities and heart activity is transmitted to the physician over the phone lines.
There are 2 types of Holter monitoring:
Holter monitoring may be done when an arrhythmia is suspected but not seen on a resting ECG, since arrhythmias may be transient in nature and not seen during the shorter recording times of the resting ECG.
When your physician studies your ECG, he/she looks at the size and length of each part of the ECG. Variations in size and length of the different parts of the tracing may be significant. The tracing for each lead of a 12-lead ECG will look different, but will have the same basic components. Each lead of the 12-lead is "looking" at a specific part of the heart, so variations in a lead may indicate a problem with the part of the heart associated with the lead.
For more information on arrhythmia diagnosis or to schedule an appointment, call us at 314-996-3627 or contact us online.