A digital electrocardiograph (ECG) is an electrocardiograph that uses a digital signal and output. An ECG uses electric current to monitor activity of the heart. It can monitor for erratic heartbeat, which may indicate several disease conditions such as the initial beginnings of an acute myocardial infarction, commonly referred to as a heart attack.
The ECG was first used in the early 1900s. It was a large device that was unwieldy and hard to use, but the technology behind it is still largely the same. It has been improved to be more compact and technologically advanced, as in the case of a digital ECG. Some machines even have software that can interpret the results.
An ECG works by measuring electrical impulses coming from the heart. Electrodes are placed on specific areas of the body after they are coated with a conducting gel. The results are then measured through the creation of a graph that charts the impulses in a specific pattern. Deviations from the pattern, or an irregular pattern, can indicate possible problems with the heart.
If someone has known issues with their heart or has symptoms such as heart murmur, fainting spells, or seizures, they will most often be hooked up to an ECG. In addition to showing a possible heart attack, an ECG can indicate electrolyte imbalances, genetic defects, and the effects drugs are having on the heart. Although there are more advanced diagnostic tools, the ECG is still used for the first line of diagnosis much of the time.
The advantage of a digital ECG is primarily the fact it has uses a digital signal to produce results. This allows a digital ECG to utilize computer components which can be built in a compact manner. It also allows the resulting graph to be plotted digitally, such as on a light emitting diode (LED) type screen. It is easier to read than the older, paper-generated ECG graphs.
Another key advantage to digital ECGs is that the information it creates can be monitored easily by a computer. Computers use primarily digital signals, so interpreting the results of an ECG often only requires some additional software be added to any computer. In addition to rendering more detailed and easily stored results, a digital ECG can also record the data much faster and more reliably. The software can also chart out the information in a variety of ways. Many digital ECGs are small and portable and, in newer models, use wireless technology to make them even more portable.