A few times a month, at least one or two patients in cardiologists’ Pikesville and Baltimore, Maryland practices bring in their smartwatch or smartphone with ECG data. In these cases, the wearable has a single-lead ecg that captures and stores a recording when the user places their finger or fingers on sensors. This data can then be viewed on an app.
ECG, or electrocardiogram, is a medical test that shows how your heart beats by measuring and recording the electrical activity of the cardiac cells (which create the signals that cause each beat). The results are usually displayed electronically or printed on paper. Health practitioners can use the resulting trace to look for various conditions, including arrhythmias like atrial fibrillation and coronary artery disease.
A Doctor’s Perspective: How ECG Devices Improve Diagnosis and Treatment
The most common way a physician takes an ECG reading is with a machine that requires you to lay down on a table while small sticky dots (electrodes) and wire leads stick to your chest, arms, legs and feet. The device then records the electrical activity and sends the information to a computer that displays it on screen or prints it out. The resulting trace can indicate things like your heart rate, the strength of the signal, and whether your heartbeat is regular or irregular.
Portable ECG machines are useful in identifying certain arrhythmias, particularly those caused by long QT syndrome (LQTS). They can also be helpful for monitoring a serious condition known as ST-elevation myocardial infarction, or STEMI, which is typically brought on by exercise and can lead to sudden cardiac arrest or death.