Just how well can a general practitioner interpret an EKG of your heart?

This is a very fair question. After all, sooner or later, medical students will be shown how to read an EKG (also known as an ECG).

Furthermore, some patients may not feel comfortable that a general doctor, or one who is not a cardiologist, is the only doctor who’s interpreting their EKG.

What also gets tossed into the equation is when a computer decides when an EKG is “abnormal.”

“An electrocardiogram, also referred to as an EKG or ECG, is used to detect electrical activity within the heart,” says Walter Gaman, MD, FABFM, board certified in family medicine and the author of several award-winning books including “Age to Perfection: How to Thrive to 100, Happy, Healthy, and Wise.”

“An abnormal tracing could be the sign of an active or previous heart attack, poor blood flow (ischemia) or an abnormal rhythm,” continues Dr. Gaman.

“GP or general practitioner refers to someone who is not board certified. Reading and interpreting an EKG for emergency purposes is something most physicians learn during residency.

“A general practitioner may or may not incorporate that skill into practice later during their profession.

“Most physicians who are board certified, such as internists and family medicine physicians, use EKG within the office and have had continuing education on EKG interpretation, as it pertains to overall heart health and disease management.”

The type of doctor who specializes in abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmias) is an electrophysiologist. This is a sub-specialty of cardiology.

If you’re concerned about your non-cardiologist doctor’s ability to interpret your recent or future EKG, then certainly you should bring it to a cardiologist — or have a new EKG taken in a cardiologist’s office. Make sure that it has 12 leads.

Dr. Gaman is with Executive Medicine of Texas and is with the Staying Young Radio Show 2.0 podcast.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.  
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