What is an electrocardiogram?
An electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) is a painless test that measures the electrical activity of the heart. An EKG can show how fast the heart is beating, the rhythm of the heart beats, and timing of the individual heart chambers as they squeeze.
Why is an electrocardiogram performed?
Doctors often use EKGs to help diagnose heart conditions. They may also use an EKG to:
- get a baseline tracing of the heart's electrical activity
- test the heart before cardiac catheterizations or surgeries
- monitor the effect of certain heart medications
- check the heart rhythm after a procedure such as a cardiac catheterization, heart surgery, or electrophysiological study
What can I expect during an electrocardiogram?
An EKG normally takes about five to 10 minutes.
To perform an EKG, a technician will place small plastic stickers on your child's chest, arms, and legs. These stickers are connected to an EKG machine by small clips and wires. The machine will then print out the electrical activity for your physician to review.
When an EKG is being performed, it is important for your child to lie as still as possible. Once the tracing is complete, the technician will disconnect the wire and remove the stickers.
Are there other types of electrocardiograms?
There are several variations of the EKG, including:
- an exercise EKG
- a signal-averaged EKG (a more detailed type of EKG that usually takes about 15 to 20 minutes)
- 24-hour Holter monitor or 30-day event monitor