An EKG is a medical test used to record electrical activity of the heart. It may be used during a regular physical examination or used to check the heart for diseases or abnormalities. The machine works by taking readings from strategically placed little electrode patches on your legs, chest and arms.
Today, EKG (also known as ECC or electrocardiogram) tests are quite simple, painless and routine tests that can accurately identify heart related problems. This has not always been so. The first device closely related to the present day EKG was called the galvanometer. It was developed in 1974. This device could only sense electrical current. In 1849, the device was enhanced by DuBois-Reymond to be able to also measure the current. The device was then called the Flow slicer or Rheotome.
Several other developments were also done in 1968 by Julius Bernstein. This modification made it possible for the first EKG readings to be taken by placing electrodes on the hearts of frogs. In 1872, Gabriel Lippmann developed the capillary electrometer. Augustus De’sire’ was the first to devise a system that used the capillary electrometer to take EKG readings without exposing the heart in 1887. He named his device electro gram, but later changed the name to cardiograms.
Einthoven entered the scene around 1900. He introduced his own version known as the String Galvanometer in 1903. A German company helped to manufacture his first prototypes before a London company took over the manufacture of his electrocardiographs. It was Einthoven that first used the term electrocardiogram.
The first EKG machine used in the U.S was an Edelmann Electrocardiograph in 1909. The machine was brought over by Alfred Cohn. The first EKG device manufactured in the U.S was built by Charles Hindle in 1914. It was designed by professor Horatio. The machine performed its first reading on May 20th, 1915.
Since then, the EKG has undergone several enhancements and adjustments to reduce its size and the size and type of electrodes used. There were also adjustments on the use of vacuum tubes to enhance recordings. After some changes to the types of enhancement tubes used, the direct writing instruments that is now being used were introduced.
Today the EKG is used to
• Check and measure heart rhythm
• Check flow of blood to heart muscles
• Diagnose heart attacks
• Identify and measure degree of heart abnormalities or problems
To perform an EKG test, the patients will have to lie flat. 10 electrodes will then be attached to the arms, legs and chest with adhesive pads. The computer will then proceed to create a description or picture of the electrical impulses on graph paper. The EKG requires about 10 minutes to complete the test beginning from attaching the electrodes to completing the readings. The actual graphical reading is actually done within just a few seconds.
The results of the EKG test can be interpreted by a doctor. The test results will be kept in the patient’s medical file for comparisons with future test results. For detailed analysis, a doctor may also recommend other EKG tests such as a signal-averaged electrocardiogram and a holter monitor.