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Date of last update: 10/20/2017.

Forum Name: Cardiology Diagnostics

Question: Abnormal EKG After Car Accident

 abusymom - Tue Jan 01, 2008 6:39 pm

In 2003 I had three normal EKG and ECHO test results after experiencing a few-day incidence of high blood pressure/bradycardia ten days after giving birth. Almost five years later, two days ago, I was a passenger (husband was driving) in a car that slid into a ditch (slowly, thankfully) while travelling home just at the beginning of a snow storm. I have a small bruise on my left chest where I "hit" the seat belt. Because of the bruise the responding police officer insisted I be transferred to the ER, where they did a "precautionary" EKG. My results were abnormal, but the attending physician said the results were "not indicative of anything." He did another EKG; compared the results to my 2003 EKGs which were done at the same hospital; and consulted the on-call cardiologist, who told him I could go home and should follow up with my regular doctor. The attending physician said he did not believe the EKG results were related to the accident, and I probably need an ECHO to see "what changed."

I have an appointment with my doctor for next week. In the meantime, I am wondering if everything going on at the time would be sufficient to cause an abnormal EKG. For one thing, I felt stressed that I was taken to the ER and kept there late into the night while I had older children at home alone, I was concerned about money (deductible, what this will do to our insurance, will insurance pay the hospital, etc.), we had another person with us who hurt her back and was also being evaluated at the hospital, etc. Thanks to the busyness of the holiday week, I had had little sleep the night before and only a late, light breakfast and two cups of coffee before a big dinner at 8:00PM. Before the dinner and four hours before the EKG I had one cocktail (husband had a soda), and I don't usually drink because I have a low tolerance. Could my atypical schedule, eating habits, and stress be enough to cause an abnormal EKG?

I am 5'4", 155 and have a normal-to-low regular blood pressure. I've never had chess pain (except now from the bruise from my seat belt), but I have been rather sedentary the past three months due to work. (I went to the gym four times a week until September and have since gained ten pounds.) Of course, since the ER visit I'm feeling a little anxious about the abnormal EKG as well as shaken from the accident, but I'm trying just to enjoy the holidays with my family.

Thank you!
 Dr. Chan Lowe - Wed Feb 06, 2008 11:27 pm

User avatar Hello Abusymom,

It is unlikely that the stress you are describing would cause EKG changes. The heart is basically shielded from these types of things. Stress can certainly affect the heart but it tends to be a long term issue. Basically, stress tends to increase the blood pressure. Elevated blood pressure makes the heart work harder, which can "wear it out" over time.

It is possible that if the bruise was over the area where the EKG electrodes go, the associated swelling could potentially cause problems with the EKG. My best advise for you is to have the EKG repeated in a few weeks once the bruising has resolved. If it continues to be abnormal, seeing a cardiologist would be appropriate.

Best wishes.

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