An electrocardiogram is a non-invasive and painless test that records the electrical signals that travel through your heart. Also known as an ECG or EKG, the electrocardiogram is used by physicians to find patterns or trends in heartbeats and rhythms. An electrocardiogram is conducted when there is a complaint of an irregularity in the rhythm of a heart beat (an arrhythmia) or
- A heart defect is present
- There are problems with the heart's valves
- The heart has blocked or narrowed arteries (coronary artery disease)
- You have a heart attack
Electrocardiogram results are usually available on the same day as your test and are discussed with you by your doctor at a scheduled follow-up appointment.
Electrocardiograms are performed in just a few minutes with very little risk. Patients are asked to avoid drinking cold water or exercising right before the exam as it may increase normal heart rate or cause misleading changes in the electrical patterns that are recorded during the test.
During the procedure
After changing into a hospital gown, you'll lie on an exam table. Approximately 12 to 15 sticky patches (electrodes) are attached to your arms, legs and chest using a clear gel. The electrodes help detect and conduct the electrical currents in your heart.
If you have hair on the parts of your body where the electrodes will be placed, you may be asked to shave it so that the electrodes stick without problem.
An electrocardiogram is considered a safe procedure. You may experience redness or soreness when the electrodes used during the procedure are removed, but there is no chance of electrocution by the electrodes. They do not emit electricity -- they only record it.