An Electrocardiogram (ECG) is a standard, quick, and painless test used to detect heart abnormalities and monitor your heart health.
ECGs are usually performed in a doctor’s surgery, a clinic, or a hospital room. You can even have a private ECG at one of the many private clinics within the UK like us.
We’re here to talk you through the essential ECG facts you need to know. We’ll discuss the costs of a private ECG, the different types of ECG, and what to expect from your test.
What’s an ECG?
An Electrocardiogram measures the electrical signals in your heart. Every time your heart beats, electrical signals travel through it. An ECG can measure and assess these signals to determine your heart health and identify any abnormalities. This means that although they’re most commonly used to identify heart conditions, they’re also used to monitor existing ones. In many cases, an abnormal ECG can be a sign of heart disease or heart damage.
What abnormalities can ECGs identify?
An ECG can identify and monitor a varied range of heart disorders. These can include:
- Coronary Artery Disease
- Heart Attack
- Heart Failure
- Heart Damage
- Poor Blood Supply
- Atrial Fibrillation (AF)
If you’ve been diagnosed with a condition like Atrial Fibrillation (AF), an ECG can be used to monitor it. During an episode of AF, your heart rate will become irregular. An ECG can pick this up. You’ll usually be closely monitored with further ECGs after diagnosis to see if these abnormal rhythms continue or if they’re responding to your prescribed treatment.
Different types of ECG
Although all ECGs work in the same way (by measuring your heart’s electrical signals), there are three main types of ECG. These are:
- A Resting ECG: A resting ECG takes about 5 minutes to perform. You’ll usually be lying down in a comfortable position for this test.
- Stress/Exercise ECG: This ECG, otherwise known as the exercise stress test, is performed when you’re using an exercise bike or a treadmill. It will monitor your heart’s ability to respond to external stress.
- Ambulatory ECG: This ECG is used to monitor your heart’s electrical activity while you perform your usual activities. For this reason, ambulatory ECGs are performed at home. You’ll be fitted with a portable ECG (some are powered by Bluetooth or wireless technology), and you’ll be expected to wear it around the home for a specified time for more in-depth monitoring.
What to expect from your ECG
Now you know the different types of ECGs and what they can measure and detect, let’s take a closer look at what to expect from an ECG.
When you have a resting or stress ECG, your health care provider will attach twelve sensors (called electrodes) to your chest and limbs. The term ‘electrodes’ may sound daunting, but these sensors are simply sticky patches fitted with wires that connect to an external monitor. These wires can record the electrical signals in your heart, and they are displayed in waves that appear on the monitor. The cardiologist will assess these signals to determine any abnormalities.
If you have an ambulatory ECG, the process is similar. You’ll still have electrodes stuck to your chest and limbs; the only difference is that your monitor will be much smaller and portable. These lightweight recorders are also sometimes called Holter monitors.
If you choose to have your ECG done privately, you can expect to pay anywhere between £95 and £120 for a private ECG. At Venturi an ECG as a stand-alone test is £85, however, you would need to have a consultation with one of our cardiologists or a referral from your GP so that we know this is the right test for you.
Prices can vary depending on the region and the type of ECG you need. Always contact your doctor if you’re experiencing symptoms like persistent chest pain, shortness of breath, dizziness, or palpitations. These symptoms could be caused by a condition that’s affecting your heart’s function. It is this combination of symptoms that can cause you to be referred for an ECG to assess your heart health.