The electrocardiogram (ECG) is one of the simplest and oldest cardiac investigations available, yet it can provide a wealth of useful information and remains an essential part of the assessment of cardiac patients.
An ECG is simply a reading of the electrical activity of the heart muscle as it changes with time, usually printed on paper for easier analysis.
Indications for electrocardiography include arrhythmias ( a problem with the rate of the rhythm of the heartbeat) heard by listening to the chest, breathing problems, shock, fainting or seizures, heart murmurs and systemic disease that affects the heart (e.g. tumours, kidney dysfunction).
Electrocardiography is also useful as part of the pre-operative work-up in older animals, for monitoring patients during and after surgery, and for evaluating the effects of cardiac drugs.
An electrocardiogram (ECG) is the only test that can accurately diagnose an arrhythmia or a conduction abnormality. And an ECG will help decide when other diagnostic tests should be done, including blood pressure measurement, chest x-rays, or even echocardiography (ultrasound investigation of the heart).
Electrocardiography is recommended in breeds prone to arrhythmias, especially if clinical signs are present. These breeds include Boxers (myocarditis), Doberman Pinschers (ventricular arrhythmias and possible cardiomyopathy), German Shepherds (congenital ventricular arrhythmias), and Miniature Schnauzers (sick sinus syndrome and sinus arrest/block).
Blood pressure values provide a tremendous amount of useful information to the veterinarian.
During anaesthesia and surgery, blood pressure monitoring is a very effective means of detecting low blood pressure, diagnosing internal bleeding, regulating IV fluid administration, monitoring anaesthetic depth and evaluating the patient’s overall health status.
In the exam room, it can be used to diagnose high blood pressure and is recognised as being an important component of a thorough health exam, providing useful baseline data and offering an important early warning sign of more serious medical conditions such as heart disease.