How It Is Done
An electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG) is
usually done by a health professional, and the resulting EKG is interpreted by
a doctor, such as an
family medicine doctor,
You may receive an EKG as part
of a physical examination at your health professional's office or during a
series of tests at a hospital or clinic. EKG equipment is often portable, so
the test can be done almost anywhere. If you are in the hospital, your heart
may be continuously monitored by an EKG system; this process is called
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 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.
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.