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Electrocardiograms (EKGs)

An electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG) is one way for physicians to measure heartbeat and heart rate. Small, adhesive electrodes are placed on your arms, legs and chest to measure the energy levels in your body. As your heart beats, the electrodes record the electrical activity of your heart on graph paper, and the results are either printed out or displayed on the monitor for your physician or nurse to study.

EKGs are among the most common diagnostic tests performed on patients with heart concerns. The simple and painless procedure allows medical staff to keep a close eye on the status and progress of the heartbeat and the patient.

What to expect during your test or treatment

  • The EKG is a simple procedure that requires no previous preparation. The test is completely safe and painless, and only takes about five minutes to complete.
  • A technologist will clean the areas of your skin where the electrodes will be placed. These areas usually are on the arms, legs and chest.
  • Men may need to have their chest partially shaved to allow a better connection.
  • The technologist will then connect 10 electrodes with adhesive pads to your skin. These electrodes are connected by thin wires to the heart monitor, or EKG machine.
  • Once the electrodes are in place, you will be asked to lie down while the machine takes its reading of your heart’s activity.

What to expect after your test or treatment

  • You may resume your normal activities immediately following the EKG.
  • Your doctor will use your EKG to assess heart rhythm, abnormal electrical conduction, heart abnormalities and whether you’ve had a heart attack.
  • Your physician will schedule a time to discuss the results with you.
  • Your EKG reading will be kept on file for comparison with future EKG readings.

Returning Home
If you have any questions about your care after you return home, call your physician’s office.

This test or treatment is offered at these facilities:

Want to know more about this condition?
Read more about electrocardiogram in our Health Information Center.

Print this patient care guide. 

To find a physician visit our Find a Doc or call (502) 629-1234 for a physician referral.

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