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Exercise Electrocardiogram

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 under each electrode may need to be shaved. When the electrodes are taken off, they may pull your skin a little.

The room where the exercise electrocardiogram is done may be kept cool for comfort, since you will warm up rapidly when you begin to exercise.

The blood pressure cuff on your arm will be inflated every few minutes. This will squeeze your arm and feel tight. Tell your health professional if this is painful.

While exercising, you may have leg cramps or soreness; feel tired, short of breath, or lightheaded; have a dry mouth; and sweat. You might even have some mild chest pain. Tell the health professional or doctor if you have these symptoms.

Risks

An exercise electrocardiogram is generally safe. Emergency equipment will be available in the testing area. Risks include:

  • Irregular heartbeats during the test.
  • Severe chest pain (angina).
  • Fainting.
  • Falling.
  • Heart attack.

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 exercise electrocardiogram camera.gif (EKG or ECG) is a test that checks for changes in your heart while you exercise. Your doctor may be able to talk to you about your results right after the test. But complete test results may take several days.

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.

Exercise electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG) results
Normal:

You reach your target heart rate (based on your age) and can exercise without chest pain or other symptoms of heart disease.

Your blood pressure increases steadily during exercise.

Your EKG tracings do not show any significant changes. Your heartbeats look normal.

Abnormal:

You have chest pain during or right after the test.

You have other symptoms of heart disease, such as dizziness, fainting, or extreme shortness of breath.

Your blood pressure drops or does not rise during exercise.

The EKG tracing does not look normal.

Your heartbeats are too fast, too slow, or very irregular.

What Affects the Test

You may not be able to have the test or the results may not be accurate if:

  • The electrodes are not securely attached to the skin.
  • You are not able to exercise hard enough during the test.
  • You take certain medicines, such as digoxin, phenothiazines, and some antiarrhythmic medicines.
  • You have a low potassium level.
  • You smoke or eat a heavy meal before the test.

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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