How It Is Done
An electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG) is usually done by a health professional, and the resulting EKG is interpreted by a doctor, such as an Reference internist Opens New Window, Reference family medicine doctor Opens New Window, Reference electrophysiologist Opens New Window, Reference cardiologist Opens New Window, Reference anesthesiologist Opens New Window, or Reference surgeon Opens New Window.
You may receive an EKG as part of a physical examination at your health professional's office or during a series of tests at a hospital or clinic. EKG equipment is often portable, so the test can be done almost anywhere. If you are in the hospital, your heart may be continuously monitored by an EKG system; this process is called telemetry.
During an EKG:
- You will lie on a bed or table. Areas on your arms, legs, and chest where small metal discs (electrodes) will be placed are cleaned and may be shaved to provide a clean, smooth surface to attach the electrode discs. A special EKG paste or small pads soaked in alcohol may be placed between the electrodes and your skin to improve conduction of the electrical impulses, but in many cases disposable electrodes are used that do not require paste or alcohol.
- Several electrodes are Reference attached to the skin Opens New Window Reference Opens New Window on each arm and leg and on your chest. These are hooked to a machine that traces your heart activity onto a paper. If an older machine is used, the electrodes may be moved at different times during the test to measure your heart's electrical activity from different locations on your chest. After the procedure, the electrode paste is wiped off.
- You will be asked to lie very still and breathe normally during the test. Sometimes you may be asked to hold your breath. You should not talk during the test.
The test usually takes 5 to 10 minutes to complete.
|By:||Reference Healthwise Staff||Last Revised: Reference September 11, 2012|
|Medical Review:||Reference Rakesh K. Pai, MD, FACC - Cardiology, Electrophysiology
Reference George Philippides, MD - Cardiology