ecg or electrocardiogram is a test that measures how fast and regularly your heart is beating (heart rate), whether it’s regular or irregular (heart rhythm). A quick ECG can give us important information, for example if your coronary arteries may be narrowed or if you have an arrhythmia like atrial fibrillation. A cardiologist can interpret this information and decide on the best course of action to correct your irregular rhythm.
The use of consumer-grade ECG devices has increased rapidly as technology advances. These are mostly integrated into multi sensor fitness watches and some come in the form of thin sensors in credit card or other shapes. Some are connected to smartphones, enabling users to track and save their readings. Patients can then share this data with their physicians and provide a record of their symptoms for better diagnosis and treatment.
ECG Devices Empower Patients to Take Control of Their Heart Health
In the hospital, doctors can take a full 12-lead ECG tracing of your heartbeat by putting electrodes on your chest, arms and legs that are connected to an ECG machine. These machines measure the electrical activity of your heart and produce a tracing on paper. The cardiologist can see the shape of each wave, how often it occurs and whether the gaps between the waves are regular or variable.
Home-based ECG devices have become popular because they are convenient, inexpensive and provide insight into your heart health. However, a large determinant of how useful these tools are comes down to how accurate they are. Several studies show that the accuracy of these devices is dependent on how well they are applied and they have limited utility in detecting certain arrhythmias. In fact, some cardiologists have questioned their accuracy and have called for improved technology that can accurately detect abnormalities that can lead to life-threatening events.