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Cardiopulmonary Department

Grinnell Regional Medical Center’s cardiopulmonary department offers comprehensive respiratory care for patients with asthma, emphysema, bronchitis, cystic fibrosis, lung cancer, and other lung-related conditions and disorders.

Qualified respiratory care practitioners staff the medical center 24 hours a day by providing a wide range of therapeutic treatments and diagnostic procedures as directed by physician orders. These specially trained healthcare professionals also provide emergency care to patients who are victims of heart attack, stroke, and trauma.

Cardiopulmonary services include oxygen therapy, medication delivery, chest physiotherapy, and life-support measures (ventilators) for intensive care patients. GRMC’s highly skilled respiratory therapists use the latest technology to provide care for adults and children suffering from a variety of conditions.

Special diagnostic procedures include Electrocardiogram (ECG), Pulmonary Function Tests (PFT), and Electroencephalogram (EEG). For information on specific diagnostic services:

  • Electrocardiogram (ECG)
  • Pulmonary Function Tests (PFT)
  • Electroencephalogram (EEG)


An electrocardiogram (ECG) is a noninvasive test that shows a graphic display of the heart’s electrical activity. This test helps a physician evaluate a patient’s heart condition and detect disease. The test shows if a heart attack has occurred and what part of the heart was damaged. It also detects decreased supplies of blood and oxygen levels to the heart as well as irregular heart beats or rhythms.

A physician may order an ECG any time there are questions about the workings of a patient’s heart. An ECG may be done when patients are admitted to the hospital as part of a routine physical exam.

If you are having an ECG, here’s what you can expect: The technician will place electrodes (a small self-sticking plastic patch) on the patient's arms and legs and six across the chest. The electrodes or sensors are connected to wires called leads, which are connected to the ECG machine. The heart’s electrical activity is recorded on a moving strip of paper in the ECG machine. It takes the machine a minute or two to make a record, so the patient will be asked to lie as still as possible.

The patient will not experience any discomfort or pain.

No advance preparation is necessary for this test.

Pulmonary Function Tests

Pulmonary function tests are a group of procedures that measure how well the lungs take in and exhale air and how efficiently they transfer oxygen into the blood. The tests can determine the causes of shortness of breath and may help confirm lung diseases, such as asthma, bronchitis, or emphysema.

Pulmonary function tests can help physicians diagnose respiratory diseases that might not be obvious to the doctor or patient. The tests are important since many kinds of lung problems can be successfully treated if detected early. The tests can also measure how quickly a lung disease is progressing, and how serious the disease has become. Pulmonary function tests also can be used to assess how a patient responds to different treatments.

If you are having a PFT, here’s what you can expect: During a comprehensive pulmonary test, patients place a clip over their nose and breathe through their mouth into a tube connected to a spirometer, a machine that measures lung health. Patients inhale deeply, and then exhale as quickly and as forcefully as possible into a tube. The exhale must last at least six seconds for the machine to work properly. Most often, patients repeat this test three times. The best of the three results is considered to be the measure of lung function. The results help physicians decide what treatment to pursue.

The risk is minimal for most people. Physicians are cautious with individuals who have had a recent heart attack or who have certain types of heart disease.

Normal results are based upon a person’s age, height, and gender. Normal results are expressed as a percentage of the predicted lung capacity. Abnormal results mean that a person’s lung capacity is less than the predicted value, signaling some degree of chest or lung disease.

Advanced preparations: Patients should not eat a heavy meal before the test or smoke for four to six hours before a test is scheduled. The patient’s physician will give instructions about whether or not to use specific medications, including bronchodilators or inhalers, before the test. Sometimes, medication may be administered as part of the test.


An EEG is a test that gives information about the functioning of the brain. The test detects electrical impulses in the brain and records graphic patterns on a long piece of paper that is later interpreted by a neurologist. An EEG is helpful in diagnosing epilepsy, sleep disorders, and brain tumors.

If you are having an EEG, here’s what you can expect: The test usually requires between 60 and 90 minutes to complete. It takes 30 to 45 minutes for the technician to prepare the patient for the test and another 30 to 40 minutes to perform the actual testing. Patients will lie down and relax in the EEG laboratory. A technician will place a small Velcro strap around the patient’s chest.  Electrodes will be placed to each ear lobe and near each eye to monitor movement and electrodes will be positioned on the patient’s chest to monitor heartbeat. A cap containing 22 electrodes will be fit on your head. The cap snaps to the Velcro strap attached to patient’s chest. Each electrode is filled with conduction gel and the scalp’s surface is scratched lightly with a blunt-ended instrument.

Patients will rest quietly during the test, lying as still as possible. Various procedures may be used to stimulate brain-wave activity. For example, some patients may be asked to breathe rapidly and deeply for three minutes. This rapid breathing may cause mild dizziness or tingling, a normal response during this part of the test. Otherwise, an EEG is easy, safe, and painless.

Patients will need to wash their hair after the test to remove the conduction gel. Normal activities may be resumed immediately unless sedation was required—sometimes necessary for children and some adults. Test results are normally available from the patient’s physician within 5 working days.

Advance preparations: Patients should shampoo their hair prior to the test but should not use conditioners, hair sprays, or other hair products prior to the test. Patients should refrain from caffeine use, take their normal medications and eat a meal prior to the test unless they have been instructed not to because of other scheduled tests. In addition, they should bring a list of medications to the hospital on test day. It is best if patients are sleep deprived on test day—go to bed late and get up early.