Electrocardiogram

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Also known as ECG, EKG

An electrocardiogram, also called an ECG or EKG, is a simple, painless test that detects and records your heart’s electrical activity.

Overview

Normal 12-lead electrocardiogram

An EKG can show how fast your heart is beating, whether the rhythm of your heartbeats is steady or irregular, and the strength and timing of the electrical impulses passing through each part of your heart. You may have an EKG as part of a routine exam to screen for heart disease. This test also is used to detect and study heart problems such as heart attacks, arrhythmia or irregular heartbeat, and heart failure. Results from this test also may suggest other heart disorders.

An EKG may be recorded in a doctor’s office, an outpatient facility, in a hospital before major surgery, or as part of stress testing. For the test, you will lie still on a table. A nurse or technician will attach up to 12 electrodes to the skin on your chest, arms, and legs. Your skin may need to be shaved to help the electrodes stick. The electrodes are connected by wires to a machine that records your heart’s electrical activity on graph paper or on a computer. After the test, the electrodes will be removed.

An EKG has no serious risks. EKGs don’t give off electrical charges such as shocks. You may develop a slight rash where the electrodes were attached to your skin. This rash usually goes away on its own without treatment.

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