The EKG is an instrumental diagnostic test for patients regardless of whether they have concerns about their heart. EKGs have been instrumental in saving countless lives over the past several decades.
To that end, you may have become used to an electrocardiogram or EKG at each of your annual checkups with your primary care physician and even your cardiologist. We use EKGs to monitor your heart rhythm and, in doing so, try to detect irregular heartbeats and rhythms at their earliest stages.
However, EKGs are not perfect. For one, without the knowledge and experience of an experienced cardiologist, there is the potential for EKGs to be misread. In other words, an abnormal EKG may be an anomaly for that patient and nothing to be concerned about. Also, subtle issues in otherwise normal-looking EKGs may be overlooked and left undiagnosed.
Another limitation is that an EKG only offers a snapshot of the patient’s heart rhythm while hooked up to the machine. As any patient with arrhythmia will attest, these irregular heart rhythms often come and go somewhat unpredictably (this is known as a paroxysmal arrhythmia). As such, it is often the case that a patient complains about discomfort, but nothing shows up on the EKG.
Enter Your Cardiologist
The cardiologists at Nevada Cardiology Associates use EKGs as a first-line diagnostic tool. However, we recognize that there may be a need for a more sensitive arrhythmia detection system. Our cardiologists and electrophysiologists have Holter monitors, loop recorders, and event monitors at their disposal to gather data over the longer term. In complicated cases, we can even use a minimally invasive electrophysiology study to visualize the heart and its electrical pathways from the inside, using minimally invasive technology.
The sub-specialty of cardiology known as electrophysiology has made incredible technological advances over the past two decades. Today, we can develop a 3-D rendering of the heart and see its electrical signals and pathways in real-time. Electrophysiologists can also perform curative cardiac catheter ablation procedures on the spot if they deem that the issue can be corrected.
Ultimately, if you are experiencing unusual or unexplained chest pains or believe you have an emergency, you should dial 911 or immediately go to the nearest emergency room. However, if your EKG does not offer conclusive results, speak to your doctor or cardiologist about the possibility of being fitted with a more advanced diagnostic tool to detect an arrhythmia should you be experiencing it.