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Different Types of EKGs

Learn about various EKG tests

Medical assistants and other healthcare professionals, like practical nurses and physicians know how to complete vital clinical tasks. They are trained to administer electrocardiograms or EKGs. EKGs, also sometimes called ECGs, are tests that inspect for abnormalities within the electrical activity of a patients’ heart.

An EKG may be performed on a patient when doctors needs to analyze a patient due to a possible heart attack, heart problems, or any unexplained chest pain or pressure. The EKG helps a physician determine what happened to the heart or respiratory system, the heart muscles involved, how much damage was done, if there are irregular rhythms or heartbeats, low oxygen or blood levels, or if  a patient needs to be prepared for surgery. Healthcare professionals who can administer these tests view the electrical activity as lines and waves.

Did you know that there are different types of EKGs? Let’s explore some of the different types below so you can get a better idea of what each type helps determine for a patients’ health status.

Cardiopulmonary exercise test (CPET): The CPET test allows some healthcare professionals to evaluate the cardiopulmonary system, or the heart and lungs. The test records electrical activity within to determine heart rate and rhythm. A set of 10 electrodes is placed on a patient’s arms, legs, or lower torso and near the chest wall. The test is non-invasive, meaning it doesn’t require surgery and it is painless for patients. The test can be completed in about 5 minutes.

Resting 12-lead EKG: This EKG requires healthcare professionals to stick 10 electrodes to the chest, wrists, and ankles of a patient. An electronic machine records the heart’s electrical activity from 12 different perspectives and is completed within 10 minutes. This is often the most common diagnostic test ordered by a provider to help measures the heart’s response to stress.

Exercise EKG (stress test): During an exercise EKG test, electrodes are hooked up to the patient to see how the heart changes while they exercise. Abnormalities in the heart’s function can sometimes only be found when the patient works out and while there are symptoms. During the test, the patient might walk on a treadmill or pedal a stationary bike. Beforehand, a resting EKG is given to determine if there are any significant problems in the heart that could occur when exercising. An exercise EKG can help a physician decide what treatment suits a patient with angina, how well patients can tolerate exercise after a heart attack or heart surgery, or it may help find symptoms that occur during exercise or physical activity. Physicians may administer an exercise EKG if they want to determine how certain heart medication is working, check for blockages or narrowing arteries, or help make decisions about an exercise program to stabilize a patients’ health.

Holter monitor: This test requires the patient to wear a small device that tracks heart rhythm. A healthcare provider may ask patients to wear the monitor for 24 to 48 hours so the device can record the fluctuations and patterns in their heartbeats. These tests may be required as follow-up after a regular resting cardiograph if it doesn’t give enough information about the heart’s condition. Wireless Holter monitors can record your heart rhythm for problems over several weeks’ time.

Signal-averaged electrocardiogram: This version is a more-detailed type of EKG. For 20 minutes, multiple EKG tracings are recorded to evaluate hundreds of cardiac cycles to help detect abnormalities and an increased risk of cardiac arrhythmias. This type of EKG is better at detecting more subtle abnormalities. A computer reads the electrical signals from the heart and determines an average so the doctor can assess how well the heart’s system is functioning.

If you enroll in medical assistant school, you can also learn how to administer and perform an EKG. This clinical task is an essential part of becoming a skilled healthcare professional. Why not help out others who need assistance? A career in healthcare could be a fulfilling one when you know you’re helping to improve the lives of others!

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Branford Hall Career Institute features a medical assistant training program at our campuses in Albany, Amityville, Bohemia, NY; Branford, Southington, Windsor, CT; Springfield, MA; and Jersey City, North Brunswick, and Parsippany, NJ. Want to learn more about our career training programs? Contact Branford today to learn more.