Should You Trust Your Heart to a Home ECG Test?

Author: Leslie Toldo

You have probably seen at least one advertisement for an at-home electrocardiogram, or ECG, machine. For decades hospitals and doctors’ offices have used the much less portable version of this technology to get vital information about how the heart is functioning.

“An electrocardiogram is the surface representation of the electrical activity of the heart and is useful in determining rhythm, conduction or passage of electricity through the heart, chamber sizes, and possible prior heart attacks,” says McLaren Flint Interventional Cardiologist Dr. Hameem Changezi.

The original and portable ECGs are both quick and painless, but there are differences in the technology, says Dr. Changezi, who is part of McLaren Flint’s world-class cardiology team.

“Recently marketed home ECG monitors basically provide two leads. ECG at a hospital or doctor’s office use 12-leads that show the heart from different angles, providing more detailed information that is useful for various purposes,” Dr. Changezi says. “All monitors, present technology included, are useful for rhythm assessment.”

However, Dr. Changezi does not think most people need that type of regular monitoring, saying, “I do not feel that the general population needs home ECG monitors. They are useful for people who have diagnosed rhythm problems and have frequent palpitations.”

So, the home ECG might be a good option for patients with conditions like atrial fibrillation or AFib, an irregular heartbeat that keeps blood from flowing properly.  It can lead to blood clots, stroke, heart failure, and other issues.  Right now, there are at least 2.7 million Americans living with AFib, according to the American Heart Association. 

“The home tests would definitely be useful in patients with atrial fibrillation; however, only the ones that are symptomatic,” Dr. Changezi says. “For most of these home devices, monitoring has to be initiated by the patient, and symptoms are the best guide for that.”

People who suffer from AFib experience varying symptoms but often say it feels like their hearts are beating out of their chests.  Some experience nausea, lightheadedness, weakness, or feel like they are gasping for air.

Rather than investing $100 or more in a portable ECG, Dr. Changezi says you might want to invest instead in a good smartwatch that will also help you do things like track your daily physical activity and diet.

“Devices like the Fitbit or Apple watch would be better options, as they provide other uses and can also indicate whether a person is having fast heart rhythms, which can be investigated further as needed,” Changezi said.

Ultimately, if you think there is an issue with the way your heart is functioning, you should see a doctor right away.  Visit to get in touch with a member of the highly skilled team at McLaren Flint.