Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG)

An electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) provides valuable information about your heart and about how well it is working. An ECG accurately records your heart rate and irregularities in your heartbeat.

It may also reveal a lack of blood flow to the heart muscle (ischemia), if you are having a myocardial infarction (heart attack), and/or the effects of medication(s).

Before the ECG

There are no restrictions for food or fluids before the exam but drinking. cold water immediately before the test may produce changes in one the results. Exercise (such as climbing stairs) immediately before an ECG may significantly increase your heart rate.

Before your exam, a technician will ask you to undress from the waist up (women will also be asked to remove pantyhose) and you will be given a gown to wear.
Soft pads containing electrodes will be attached to your arms, legs, and chest. A clear jelly may be applied to your skin to help amplify the signal.

The standard number of leads attached is 12 to 15 for a diagnostic ECG but may be as few as 3 to 5 for a monitoring procedure.

During the ECG

Relax and breathe normally. The entire process is painless and should take no more than 10 minutes. There is no danger of electrical shock. You may talk during the ECG, but you should lie still.

After the ECG

You may return home and resume your normal activities. There are no side effects from the test.