An electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) is a noninvasive diagnostic exam performed to detect electrical activity in the heart. It is commonly performed after patients have experienced heart attack symptoms including chest pain, shortness of breath and heart palpitations, or as part of a routine heart disease screening. An ECG produces a record of waves that relate to the electrical impulses that occur during each beat of a patient’s heart.
This test is performed by attaching electrical wires, called electrodes, to the arms, legs and chest. The ECG machine is then started, recording your heart’s electrical activity, showing how quickly and regularly your heart beats, as well as the size of the chambers and thickness of the heart walls. It is important for patients to remain still during this test, as muscle movement may interfere with results. Abnormal results from an ECG may indicate signs of a heart condition, which should be further investigated.
Holter or event monitoring is a tracing technique used for patients whose heart conditions cannot be properly diagnosed through an EKG or other typical tests. These medical devices record the electrical activity of the heart and are often used to diagnose arrhythmias or myocardial ischemia, conditions that may or may not cause symptoms.
Since an EKG only lasts for a few minutes, it may not detect any heart abnormalities if they are not present at that time. The Holter monitor is worn for 24 to 48 hours and records the heart’s activity throughout that time. This helps to detect arrhythmias that may only occur at certain times, such as after physical exertion.
Nerve conduction studies are utilized to determine if the patient is suffering from nerve damage or inherent deficiency. This allows the doctor to either rule out or confirm a diagnosis of nervous system issues, instead of musculoskeletal problems that could cause similar symptoms. They can also help determine the source of nerve damage, such as substance abuse, nerve compression or another peripheral neuropathy, as the specific cause can be vital to effective treatment.
Nerve conduction studies are often performed in conjunction with electromyography, which helps to diagnose muscle disease and neuromuscular conditions such as myasthenia gravis and Lou Gehrig’s disease (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis).
The nerves are essentially electrical systems and are thus best observed using an oscilloscope. This device displays signal voltages and charts them along a graph according to time. Electrodes are attached to the skin to deliver mild electrical impulses and then record the body’s response.
Strep throat is a common condition that occurs most frequently in children. Rapid tests for strep throat can provide results within minutes. A traditional test is often performed in addition to the rapid test in order to confirm results. A rapid test allows for treatment to begin right away instead of waiting for results.
Spirometry is a pulmonary exam used to diagnose conditions such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and evaluate the overall function of the lungs for patients suffering from chronic lung conditions. This test measures the amount of air the lungs can hold, as well as how fast the air can be exhaled by asking the patient to breathe through a tube attached to a spirometer, which will calculate the results. A bronchodilator may be given as part of this exam to more precisely detect any breathing obstructions.
Spirometry is recommended for patients with a chronic cough, shortness of breath, a family history of bronchitis or emphysema and for those who smoke. Each measurement process takes just a few minutes to perform, and results can be discussed with the doctor right away. Additional testing may be required in order to accurately diagnose asthma or other chronic lung conditions.
Most sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) have no symptoms, especially in women, so it is hard to know if you have been infected. Periodic testing is recommended for anyone with multiple sexual partners, even if they are having protected sex. Condoms are the only form of contraception that protects against STDs. It is important to communicate with your partner and ask them if they have or have ever had an STD. At Richmond Primary Care Specialists, we offer safe and confidential STD testing and treatment.
Ultrasonography is an imaging technique used to diagnose a variety of conditions. It is used commonly during pregnancy, to detect gallbladder disease, cancer and to perform breast exams. The process uses high frequency sound waves and directs them at specified areas of the body to generate images of the internal structure. It is most effective in imaging soft tissues that are solid or filled with fluid. The procedure is done by applying a gel over the surface of the skin and then running a transducer over the area. For certain tests, a probe must be inserted into the body to project an image. Either way, the procedure is usually painless and takes less than 30 minutes. The images are projected simultaneously onto a display screen and can be analyzed then or stored for later diagnosis. Preparation for ultrasonography sometimes includes fasting for up to 12 hours prior to the exam.