Electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG)
What is the doctor looking for?
If you are experiencing chest pain or heart palpitations, your physician may order an EKG to determine whether your heart is beating normally. As well, for people on medications or who have a pacemaker, an EKG can detect the effects of changes in activity or medication levels. EKGs are also commonly recommended as part of a routine examination for patients over 40.
What is the test?
An EKG, also known as an electrocardiogram or an ECG, is a very common and useful test for determining if there is an electrical problem with your heart, if there is a sign of a heart attack, or if part of the heart is enlarged. The test uses electrodes to measure heart activity, then records this activity on graph paper. You will be asked to lie down, and a clinical assistant will apply about 12-15 small electrodes (small, painless metal disks) to each arm, leg, and the chest. Some people may have to have their hair shaved in order for the electrodes to be affixed. In most cases, you will be asked to simply lie still while your heart and blood pressure are monitored and recorded on special graph paper. Some people may be asked to hold their breath for short periods during the procedure.
Where are the tests done?
The tests are usually done in the cardiology department, although they can be done anywhere in the hospital. This test can also be done in the office of your physician.
May I eat or drink?
What about medications?
You may take your medications as prescribed by your physician.
Will I have an IV?
Do I need special clothing?
No. But you will be required to remove all jewelry during the test.
What should I bring to the test?
A list of your current prescribed medications.
How long does the test take?
The entire procedure takes approximately 15-20 minutes, after which time you are released and can resume normal activities.
When will the results be ready?
The results print out on a tape immediately but must be re-read by a cardiologist. If a physician is near, he/she can read it right away. The official report is generally available from your physician within 24 hours.
Tell your doctor/nurse if you have …
Asthma, COPD, or breathing problems. If you have chest pain, please notify your doctor.
Will the test make me sick or sleepy?
No. An EKG is painless, although when the electrodes are first applied, the disks may feel cold. A very small number of people develop a slight rash or other irritation where the patches are placed.
Will I receive any radiation during the procedure?
What if I am pregnant or breast-feeding?
There are no risks if you are pregnant or breast-feeding.