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Does nervousness affect an electrocardiogram?

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Allergist and Immunologist
Practicing since : 1999
Answered : 584 Questions
Is it possible for nervousness to affect an EKG? I have had 2 abnormal EKGs in the past, and a 3rd one last week (all were being done for preop). My first abnormal EKG was in 2006, my second in February 2012, and another one last week, December 26, 2012. I've had two echocardiograms that were normal and a normal stress test in February 2012. I was very nervous during the one I had last week. All of my lab values were good and the chest X XXXXXXX indicated no cardiopulmonary disease. My gallbladder laparoscopically 9 days from today. I was panicking during the eKG and took some XXXXXXX breaths to try and calm myself. I need some clarification. Thank you.
Posted Mon, 21 Jan 2013 in X-ray, Lab tests and Scans
Answered by Dr. Sujoy Khan 8 hours later
Welcome to Healthcare Magic and thank you for writing to us.

An electrocardiogram (or EKG) can be considered as a preliminary test to exclude cardiac diseases such as rhythm disorders, heart attacks, heart enlargement or electrolyte imbalance. As it tries to maps the impulses from the heart from 6 positions and trace it on the graph paper, there can be several ways that this tracing may be affected.
1. Position changes can affect the tracing
2. if you hold your breath, then the heart rate slows down making it look abnormal.
3. if you panic, then the rate speeds up, and in extreme cases may look like a flutter, and appear as abnormal
As other tests such as CXR and more importantly the 2D-ECHO was normal, I would not consider this too seriously and focus on getting the operation done.
Even more, the stress test was normal and if you can do that without a glitch, then there is no organic heart disease.
Of course, other tests would include getting blood tests done to check your hemoglobin, sodium, potassium levels and if they are normal, then that is all you need.

I hope that was useful.
Best Wishes.
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