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Electrocardiogram

How It Is Done continued...

During an EKG:

  • You will lie on a bed or table. Areas on your arms, legs, and chest where small metal discs (electrodes) will be placed are cleaned and may be shaved to provide a clean, smooth surface to attach the electrode discs. A special EKG paste or small pads soaked in alcohol may be placed between the electrodes and your skin to improve conduction of the electrical impulses, but in many cases disposable electrodes are used that do not require paste or alcohol.
  • 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 to measure your heart's electrical activity from different locations on your chest. After the procedure, the electrode paste is wiped off.
  • 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.

The test usually takes 5 to 10 minutes to complete.

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

There is no chance of problems while having an electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG). 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 the electrical activity of your heart to tracing on paper. No electricity passes through your body from the machine, and there is no danger of getting an electrical shock.

Results

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

Your doctor will look at the pattern of spikes and dips on your electrocardiogram to check the electrical activity in different parts of your heart. The spikes and dips are grouped into different sections that show how your heart is working.

Electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG) results
Normal:

The heart beats in a regular rhythm, usually between 60 and 100 beats per minute.

The tracing looks normal.

Abnormal:

The heart beats too slow (such as less

than 60 beats per minute).

The heart beats too fast (such as more than 100 beats per minute).

The heart rhythm is not regular.

The tracing does not look normal.

 

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: September 11, 2012
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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