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There are many ways you can help children and their families get the care they need.
An EKG (also called ECG) is one of the simplest and fastest procedures used to evaluate the heart. Before the test, electrodes (small, plastic patches) are placed at certain locations on your child's chest, arms and legs. After the electrodes are connected to the EKG/ECG machine by lead wires, the electrical activity of your child's heart is measured, interpreted and printed out for the physician to examine.
The electrical activity of the heart is measured by an electrocardiogram. By placing electrodes at specific locations on the body (chest, arms and legs), we can make a graphic representation, or tracing, of the electrical activity. Changes in an EKG can indicate that your child has a heart-related condition.
Some medical conditions which may cause changes in the EKG pattern include:
NOTE: This list just contains examples. It’s not intended to be a comprehensive list of all conditions that may cause changes in the EKG pattern.)
An EKG may also be performed for other reasons, including:
to check the heart's status after a heart-related procedure such as a cardiac catheterization, heart surgery or electrophysiological studies
The heart is, in the simplest terms, a pump made up of muscle tissue. Like all pumps, the heart requires a source of energy in order to function. The heart's pumping energy comes from a built-in, electrical, conduction system.
An electrical stimulus is generated by the sinus node (also called the sinoatrial node, or SA node), which is a small area of specialized tissue located in the right atrium (right upper chamber) of the heart.
Under normal conditions, the sinus node generates an electrical stimulus every time the heart beats (60 to 190 times per minute, depending on your child’s age of activity level).
This electrical stimulus travels down through the conduction pathways (similar to the way electricity flows through power lines from the power plant to your house) and causes the heart's chambers to contract and pump out blood. The right and left atria (the two upper chambers of the heart) are stimulated first and contract a short period of time before the right and left ventricles (the two lower chambers of the heart).
The electrical impulse then travels from the sinus node to the atrioventricular (AV) node, where it stops for a very short period, and continues down the conduction pathways via the bundle of His into the ventricles. The bundle of His divides into right and left pathways to provide electrical stimulation to both ventricles.
Almost everyone knows what a basic EKG tracing looks like. But what does it mean?
When your child's doctor studies your child's EKG, she looks at the size and length of each part of the EKG. Variations in size and length of the different parts of the tracing may be significant.
The tracing for each lead of a 12-lead EKG will look different, but will have the same basic components as described above. Each lead of the 12-lead EKG is "looking" at a specific part of the heart from different angles. Variations in a lead may indicate a problem with the part of the heart associated with that particular lead.
What is the procedure for an EKG?
A resting EKG normally takes five to 10 minutes, including attaching and detaching electrodes. During an EKG:
There are several variations of the EKG test, including:
Holter monitoring may be done when a problem is suspected but not seen on a resting or signal-average EKG.
Depending on the results of the EKG, additional tests or procedures may be scheduled to gather further diagnostic information.
We are grateful to have been ranked #1 on U.S. News & World Report's list of the best children's hospitals in the nation for the third year in a row, an honor we could not have achieved without the patients and families who inspire us to do our very best for them. Thanks to you, Boston Children's is a place where we can write the greatest children's stories ever told.”