An electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) measures the electrical activity of your heart. The heart generates an electrical signal, which flows out from your heart through your body. Small electrical sensors, called electrodes, are put on your skin to sense the electricity that began in your heart. The electrical activity is then turned into a graph. This can give doctors an idea of whether your heart is beating normally.
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An EKG is used to:
Symptoms that may prompt an EKG include:
An EKG may also be obtained if you:
There are no major complications associated with this test.
You will be asked to lie quietly on your back with your shirt off. Six small, sticky pads with attached wires will be placed across your chest. Others will be placed on your arms and legs. The wires will connect to the EKG machine. You will not feel anything during the test.
You may resume activities as recommended by your doctor.
Your doctor will interpret the EKG. Based on the results and your other health information, you may need more tests or a treatment plan.
Call your doctor if you have heart-related symptoms, such as chest pain or trouble breathing.
If you think you have an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.
American Heart Association
Heart Rhythm Society
Canadian Cardiovascular Society
Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada
Electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG). American Heart Association website. Available at: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HeartAttack/SymptomsDiagnosisofHeartAttack/Electrocardiogram-ECG-or-EKG_UCM_309050_Article.jsp. Updated November 26, 2012. Accessed March 11, 2015.
Noninvasive tests and procedures. American Heart Association website. Available at: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HeartAttack/SymptomsDiagnosisofHeartAttack/Non-Invasive-Tests-and-Procedures_UCM_303930_Article.jsp. Updated April 15, 2013. Accessed March 11, 2015.
What is an electrocardiogram? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/ekg/. Updated October 1, 2010. Accessed March 11, 2015.
Last reviewed March 2015 by Michael J. Fucci, DO Last Updated: 5/2/2014