An electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) is one of the quickest and safest procedures to evaluate the heart. It is used to measure the electrical activity of your heart. A tracing is produced which records the rate and rhythm of the heart. An EKG can indicate a history of a previous heart attack, enlargement, or inflammation of the heart. It can also reveal severe blood flow deficiencies to the heart. An EKG may also be used:
- To help determine the cause of chest pain
- To evaluate other signs and symptoms which may be heart-related, such as fatigue, upper back or jaw pain, new onset of fatigue, shortness of breath, dizziness
- To identify abnormal heart rhythms
- To assess the heart after surgery (pacemaker, bypass, angioplasty) or treatment for heart-related conditions (congestive heart failure, pericarditis)
- To evaluate the effectiveness of medications prescribed for heart conditions
Electrocardiograms can miss some heart problems, so your physician might order further testing based on your medical history and physical exam. Women are more likely to have abnormal EKGs that are normal and therefore may benefit from supplementary testing (ultrasound, stress test) to clarify the significance of any EKG irregularities.
- Typically you will lie flat on a bed or exam table.
- Electrodes (small adhesive patches) will be placed on your chest, arms and legs, which are then connected to the EKG machine by lead wires.
- You will be asked to lie still and not talk while one or more EKG tracings are printed.
- You may also be asked to sit or stand for an additional EKG printout for clearance before starting other testing, such as a stress test.
- The physician will review and interpret the electrocardiogram.