Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG)

An electrocardiogram is used to monitor your heart. Each beat of your heart is triggered by an electrical impulse normally generated from special cells in the upper right chamber of your heart.

An electrocardiogram — also called an ECG or EKG — records these electrical signals as they travel through your heart. Your doctor can use an electrocardiogram to look for patterns among these heartbeats and rhythms to diagnose various heart conditions.

An electrocardiogram is a noninvasive, painless test. The results of your electrocardiogram will likely be reported the same day it’s performed, and your doctor will discuss them with you at your next appointment.

Why It’s Done

What are the risks?

An electrocardiogram is a noninvasive and safe procedure to monitor the electrical signals in the heart. Some patients might face some discomfort or uneasiness when the electrodes or the test sensors are removed from the patient’s body. The level of discomfort is similar to the discomfort faced when a band-aid is removed from the skin. A few patients might develop some skin reactions from the adhesives which are used to put electrodes on the patient’s body. In some rare cases, patients might get some swelling and redness on the area where electrodes are placed. There is no risk of electrocution from the electrodes during an ECG as these electrodes attached to the patient’s body do not emit any electricity.

In the stress echocardiogram, there is an ECG done along with the echo test. In this test, when the heart of the patient is put under stress (when a patient is asked to walk on a treadmill), in some rare cases, the patient might get a heart attack. This may happen as a result of an irregular heartbeat due to physical activity done during the stress test.

There is another type of stress echo known as a Dobutamine stress test, which includes an ECG test to be conducted for the patient. If the patient is not able to perform an exercise or walk on the treadmill, then an injection is given with a drug, that makes the heart pump faster as if the patient is exercising. Some patients also develop adverse reactions from the drug given in this test.

It is important for a patient to inform the doctor about any allergic reactions, if happened in the past or any medicines a patient is taking. In such cases, the doctor will assess the current state and the medications prescribed and would either ask the patient to stop taking the medicine or continue if there are no side effects.

How to prepare for the procedure?

The doctor or the nurse will explain the ECG procedure in detail to the patient. No specific preparations are required before the test. Some points to be taken care of are as mentioned: