Is your doctor reading your heart right? Here's our weekly health guide

The human heart is not all about muscles and blood supply as most discussions around heart would like you to believe. The muscular action and flow of blood which keeps the heart in a working condition is an intricate network of electrical conduction system. The electrical system causes the heart to contract by pumping the blood throughout the body and to lungs, and the coordination of rhythmic contractions of heart muscles through electrical signals causes your heart to beat. 

The beating of the heart is more vital than one can imagine. People are usually more familiar with heart attack which is a circulation issue due to the blockages in the arteries supplying blood to heart. In a person suffering from heart attack, the heart continues to beat and the patient still has some time to survive. 

Issue with electrical system of the heart is much more critical in nature. In case of any malfunction of the conduction system, the heart can stop beating, instantly triggering a cardiac arrest which is almost instantaneously fatal, leaving seconds to recuperate a victim through defibrillation, which is kick-starting the heart with electric shock.

Worst of all, issues with malfunctioning of heart beats are largely asymptomatic, go on without suspicion and difficult to diagnose. Therefore, accurate reading of heart rhythms is essential and which is why doctors prescribe electrocardiogram (ECG). 

Recording the electrical activity of heart

The electrical activity of the heart is recorded by electrocardiogram, which includes heart rhythm, heart rate, and shows if there are any changes in the heart due to hypertension or previous heart attack or any genetic malfunction. It is the basic level of testing which provides the doctor with the window to your heart's activities. Interpreting the heart rhythm right

Vanita Arora, Consultant, Director and Head, Cardiac Electrophysiology Max Super Specialty Hospital
Doing ECG is easy. What is more complicated is reading it correctly. Not every physician is trained enough to read ECG and there are many mathematical calculations involved. The primary objective is to diagnose any possible condition which can put patient at risk. Therefore, a physician has to weigh-in multiple factors including family history, risk factors for heart diseases, etc, before making a clinical assessment. 

 
Consult an expert

An expert in ECG will prefer examining all 12 leads, as the ECG machine can analyse depolarisation and repolarisation flow from 12 different perspectives. A single misreading can change the complete interpretation.

It is therefore vital for patients to go to experts and experienced cardiologists who are "Cardiac Electrophysiologists" (EPs) for interpretation of ECG. EPs are especially trained in studying the electrical conduction system of the heart, and therefore chances of correct ECG interpretation are high.

 

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