By Ragan Conteh
A Chinese Medical doctor working at the Jui hospital, Dr. Xu has said that Electrocardiogram (ECG) is an important part of medicine to keep people well and because of that he has been treating about 30 patients a day at the hospital.
“An electrocardiogram (ECG) is a test which measures the electrical activity of the heart to show whether or not it is working normally.
An ECG records the heart’s rhythm and activity on a moving strip of paper or a line on a screen.”
He said ECG gives two major kinds of information, first by measuring time intervals on the ECG, a doctor can determine how long the electrical wave takes to pass through the heart.
Finding out how long a wave takes to travel from one part of the heart to the next shows if the electrical activity is normal or slow, fast or irregular.
Second, by measuring the amount of electrical activity passing through the heart muscle, a cardiologist may be able to find out if parts of the heart are too large or are overworked.
“There’s no pain or risk associated with having an electrocardiogram. When the ECG stickers are removed, there may be some minor discomfort.”
Explaining how ECG works, Dr Xu said it records the electrical activity of the heart at rest.
It provides information about the heart’s rate and rhythm, and shows if there is enlargement of the heart due to high blood pressure (hypertension) or evidence of a previous heart attack (myocardial infarction).
However, it does not show whether one has asymptomatic blockages in the heart arteries or predict the risk of a future heart attack.
“The resting ECG is different from a stress or exercise ECG or cardiac imaging test.
You may need an ECG test if you have risk factors for heart disease such as high blood pressure, or symptoms such as palpitations or chest pain.
Or you may need it if you already have heart disease. But in other cases, you may think twice about having this test.”
Dr Xu said usually, you do not need an ECG if you don’t have risk factors for heart disease or symptoms that suggest possible heart disease.
“The test is not useful in routine checkups for people who do not have risk factors for heart disease such as high blood pressure or symptoms of heart disease, like chest pain.
Yet, many people with no risk factors or symptoms have an ECG as part of their routine checkups.
There are better ways to prevent heart disease than routine ECGs. The ECG will not harm you. However, it can sometimes show mild nonspecific abnormalities that are not due to underlying heart disease, but cause worries and leads to follow-up tests and treatment that you do not need.”
Dr. Xu said there are many cases of heart problems in Sierra Leone and the hospital needs more quality machines to get accurate results, saying that the Pathological lab is yet to start operation that all should help the patients get better treatment.
He said he has two hardworking staff: Nannah Kamara and June Pessima, adding that they are very hard working and trusts them to even do the test with him.
“I will make sure that they continue to have more training so that they would be able to do more in the hospital. When the new equipment arrives, then we will be able to do more diagnosis of high quality and save more lives.”