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Electrocardiogram

How It Is Done

You may get an EKG as part of a physical exam. This may be done at your health professional's office or during a series of tests at a hospital or clinic. EKG equipment is often portable. This means the test can be done almost anywhere. If you are in the hospital, your heart may be constantly monitored by an EKG system.

During an EKG:

  • You will lie on a bed or table. Certain areas of your arms, legs, and chest will be cleaned and may be shaved. This provides a clean, smooth surface to attach the electrodes.
  • Several electrodes are attached to the skin camera.gif on each arm and leg and on your chest. These are hooked to a machine that traces your heart activity onto a paper. If an older machine is used, the electrodes may be moved at different times during the test. This measures your heart's electrical activity from different places on your chest.
  • You will be asked to lie very still and breathe normally during the test. Sometimes you may be asked to hold your breath. You should not talk during the test.
  • After the test, the electrode paste is wiped off.

The test usually takes 5 to 10 minutes.

How It Feels

The electrodes may feel cool when they are put on your chest. If you have a lot of hair on your chest, a small area may need to be shaved to put the electrodes on. When the electrodes are taken off, they may pull your skin a little.

Risks

An EKG is a completely safe test. In most cases, there is no reason why you should not be able to get an EKG.

The electrodes are used to transfer an image of your heart's electrical activity to the tracing on paper. No electricity passes through your body from the machine, and there is no danger of electrical shock.

Results

An electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG) is a test that checks for problems with the electrical activity of your heart. An EKG shows the heart's electrical activity as line tracings on paper. The spikes and dips in the line tracings camera.gif are called waves.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: September 26, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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