An ECG can show the electrical activity of your heart. It will appear as a pattern on a graph. It can help to show abnormal movements or working of the heart.
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.
Reasons for Test
An ECG is used to:
and rhythm problems
- Offer clues about other heart conditions and conditions not directly related to the heart
Detect conditions that change the body’s balance of electrolytes, such as
- Detect other problems, such as overdoses of certain drugs
Symptoms that may lead to your doctor ordering an ECG include:
- Chest discomfort or pain
- Shortness of breath
- Rapid heart beat
- History of fainting
An ECG may also be done if you:
Are about to have surgery with
- Are in occupations that stress the heart or where public safety is a concern
- Are an older adult or have diabetes
- Already have heart disease
Have had a heart-related procedure, such as getting a
There are no major problems linked to this test.
What to Expect
- Be asked about your health history.
- Your chest may be shaved.
You will be asked to lie quietly on your back. Six small, sticky pads will be placed across your chest. Other pads will be placed on your arms and legs. Wires will be attached to the pads. The wires will also connect to the ECG machine. You will not feel anything during the test.
You can return to your normal activity after the test.
Your doctor will review the ECG. The results may lead to:
- More tests to confirm a diagnosis
- Treatment plan
Call Your Doctor
Call your doctor if you have heart-related symptoms. This includes chest pain or trouble breathing.
If you think you have an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.
Electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG). American Heart Association website. Available at:
http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HeartAttack/SymptomsDiagnosisofHeartAttack/Electrocardiogram-ECG-or-EKG_UCM_309050_Article.jsp. Updated September 11, 2015. Accessed March 5, 2018.
Noninvasive tests and procedures. American Heart Association website. Available at:
http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HeartAttack/SymptomsDiagnosisofHeartAttack/Non-Invasive-Tests-and-Procedures_UCM_303930_Article.jsp. Updated September 16, 2016. Accessed March 5, 2018.
What is an electrocardiogram? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at:
http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/ekg/. Accessed March 5, 2018.
Last reviewed March 2018 by
EBSCO Medical Review BoardAlan Drabkin, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
Copyright © EBSCO Publishing. All rights reserved.