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Electrocardiogram (EKG)

An electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG) is a test that measures the electrical activity of your heartbeat. With each beat, an electrical pulse travels through the heart. This causes the muscle to squeeze and pump blood from the heart.

More specifically, an EKG can track how long the electrical wave takes to pass through the heart. Finding out how long a wave takes shows if the electrical activity is abnormal. Also, by measuring the amount of electrical activity in your heart, a cardiologist can find out if parts of the heart are too large or are overworked.

The EKG doesn’t send electricity into the body.

Who is eligible for an electrocardiogram (EKG)?

An EKG test is sometimes included in a routine exam for middle-aged and older adults because of their higher risk of heart disease.

You may need an EKG test if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • Fatigue.
  • Chest pain.
  • Arrhythmia.
  • Dizziness.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Tachycardia (rapid heartbeat).

You may also need an EKG if you:

  • Have a family history of heart disease.

  • Are scheduled for surgery. Your health care provider may want to check your heart health before the procedure.

  • Have had a heart attack or other heart problems in the past.

  • Have a pacemaker. The EKG can show how well the device is working.

  • Are taking medicine for heart disease. The EKG can show if your medicine is effective.

What conditions can be diagnosed by an electrocardiogram (EKG)?

An EKG test is used to find various heart disorders, including:

  • Heart failure.
  • Blocked arteries.
  • Heart damage.
  • Heart attack.
  • Irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia).

How do I prepare for an electrocardiogram (EKG)?

You don't need to make any special preparations for an EKG test.

What should I expect during my electrocardiogram (EKG)?

You will be asked to lie down. The health care provider will clean several areas on your arms, legs, and chest and attach small electrodes to those areas. It may be necessary to shave or clip some hair, so the patches stick to the skin.

Wires connect the patches to a machine that turns the heart's electrical signals into wavy lines, often printed on paper. The doctor reviews the test results.

You will need to remain still during the procedure. The provider may also ask you to hold your breath for a few seconds as the test is being done. Any movement can alter the results. However, sometimes this test is done while exercising or under light stress to look for changes in the heartbeat. This type of EKG is called a stress test.

There’s no pain or risk associated with having an electrocardiogram. When the EKG stickers are removed, there may be some minor discomfort.

Why choose Presbyterian for electrocardiogram (EKG)?

Presbyterian’s Heart and Vascular team has many different options to help you manage your heart condition. The team performs various diagnostic tests and procedures to help form an accurate diagnosis and create individualized treatment plans for your heart health needs. Depending on the type of heart condition you have and its underlying cause, the team can recommend a wide variety of treatment options, including lifestyle modifications, medications, and procedures. Our cardiologists and cardiovascular surgeons work closely together for cases in which surgery is the best treatment option. We also offer a customized cardiac rehabilitation program at our Healthplex, where clinically appropriate, which can improve your endurance and exercise tolerance, as well as improve heart-related symptoms. Your cardiologist will work with the rehabilitation team to create a plan that will be tailored to your individual health needs.