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Reliability of EKG?
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Reliability of EKG?

Hello. Could you please tell me how reliable an EKG is?  I had an EKG June of 2004 and was told it was 'perfect' yet continue to have mild heart related symptoms, such as chest discomfort, left arm pain, and jaw spasms, which have seemed to worsen lately.  My BP usually runs 110/60 while my cholesterol has risen from last summer from 210 total to 240.  I returned to my doctor 2 weeks ago who continues to insist that the likelihood of a heart problem is small and did not perform another EKG. So does a 'perfect' EKG entirely rule out a heart problem, considering the symptoms?  He did set up an appointment for me to see a gastrologist since I mentioned frequent heartburn and a new ability to belch often that began last summer, something I never seemed to really be able to do all that frequently (he did a bacteria test that came back normal).  Thank you so much for your time and response.
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Hi Holly,

EKGs are not perfect.  It is usually pretty safe to look at the whole picture.  If you were born in 1972, have a normal EKG, non smoking, no premature family history of coronary disease and no other risk factors including diabetes or obesity, the odds of you having significant coronary disease is exceeding low.  In fact, doing a stress test on a low probability patient is more likely to yield a false positive test that could lead to further, more risk and invasive studies.

I made some assumptions above that likely do not all apply to you.  The answer to your question is that EKGs cannot rule out all cardiac abnormalities.

I hope this helps.
6 Comments
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Thank you for your response.  Your assumption of my history was correct except, while I am not obese, I am overweight. I hope they can find out what is wrong soon!
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I am glad I have seen this post.  I have been trying for days to post a question and am always out of luck.  My 2 grandmothers both had heart attacks.(after the age of 65)  My father had one at the age of 56 and my sister had to have her aorta repaired as a very young baby.  I am a 32 year old female who does not drink, smoke, eat junk and am not overweight.  I have been having chest pains.  Pains in my back, neck and down my arms.  My job requires heavy lifting and I have lots of pulled muscles.  I go to massage for this.  Anyway, one morning my pains were bad and I got worried because of my family history and went to the ER.  I had and EKG and another one about a month later(panic attacks because I am worried over the pains)and they both came back fine.  I had wondered if an EKG was reliable.  I would like for my doctor to do a Stress Test because of my family history.  I am self employed and therefore am somewhat pretty stressed also.  I do not know what to think because my doctor says nothing is wrong because the EKG's were both fine but I am worried.
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Avatar_n_tn
Abby, Peace of Mind is Priceless.  EKG's do not tell all.  I am Older than you and MY EKG's did not pick up everything...thus valubale time was lost. If I knew then what I know now,,,I would not be in this position.  One female cardiolgist told me a Stress EChocardiogram is a good test especially for females.
Sometimes a female has to get mad and mouthy.  I had to.  I was positive for Heart Disease.

Peace of Mind is everything....

Good Luck.

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Avatar_n_tn
I went into the doctors office. Heaviness on chest both arms, the sides of my neck, and my jaw line just ached. An EKG was done and I was told the good news no heart attack. I was given a medication for acid reflux. Did not feel good about the results.
Next day went to another doctors office even though I did not know them. They sent me for a stress test and from there for a nuclear stress test. Results were I had a heart attack due to 100% blockage. So please don't rely on just and ekg, I never will.
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I have recently had a lot of stress put on me due to a big move, spontaneous death in the family and closing on a house all within a week and suffered from panic attacks and anxiety.  Up until this point I have never worried about and twinges or pains in my arms and chest, but lately I can not get it out of my mind that something is wrong.  I had the pressure and some speratic sharp/dull aches in the chest shooting pains, numbness and twinges in my arms with neck and jaw tightness.  After I had an upper GI I was given prevacid for reflux, but still have the occasional "symptoms of a heart attack" which causes an axiety attack that I have to fight off.  What do you recommend to ease my emotional state about this and get back to living the carefree life I am used too.  I am 25,male, non smoker, drink socially, exercise as much as possible and not overweight.  Thanks for taking the time to look at this.

Justin
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