An electrocardiogram (also called EKG or ECG) is a test that records the electrical activity of your heart through small electrode patches attached to the skin of your chest, arms, and legs. An EKG may be part of a routine physical exam or it may be used as a test for heart disease. An EKG can be used to further investigate symptoms related to heart problems.
Your doctor uses the EKG to:
- Assess your heart rhythm.
- Diagnose poor blood flow to the heart muscle (ischemia).
- Diagnose a heart attack.
- Evaluate certain abnormalities of your heart, such as an enlarged heart.
How Should I Prepare for an EKG?
To prepare for an EKG:
- Avoid oily or greasy skin creams and lotions the day of the test. They interfere with the electrode-skin contact.
- Avoid full-length hosiery, because electrodes need to be placed directly on the legs.
- Wear a shirt that can be easily removed to place the leads on the chest.
What Happens During an EKG
During an EKG, a technician will attach electrodes with adhesive pads to the skin of your chest, arms, and legs. You will lie flat while the computer creates a picture, on graph paper, of the electrical impulses traveling through your heart. This is called a “resting” EKG. This same test may also be used to monitor your heart during exercise.
It takes about 10 minutes to attach the electrodes and complete the test, but the actual recording takes only a few seconds.