All About Electrocardiograms

An electrocardiogram (EKG) is a medical test that records the electrical activity of an individual’s heart. The test takes about 10 minutes to complete and is not painful. While the reading is being taken, the patient is asked to lie still to ensure an accurate reading.

An EKG is performed by a technologist. These people have undergone specialized training to learn how to administer EKG tests properly.

What an EKG Measures

The results of the EKG provide doctors with valuable information, including:

  • patient’s heart rate
  • whether there are any irregularities in the heart rhythm
  • size of the heart

When an EKG May Be Ordered

A doctor may ask that a patient undergo an EKG for a number of reasons. If a patient has or is experiencing chest pain, difficulty breathing or complains of that his or her heart is pounding, an EKG will be ordered to investigate the cause of those symptoms.

A person who complains of feeling weak or tired may also need to have this test performed. If a doctor detects an unusual sound when listening to a patient’s heartbeat, the test can help to determine the cause. In some cases, the EKG will need to be repeated to diagnose the underlying heart condition.

Some patients undergo an EKG as part of their regular checkup, especially if the individual is at risk for heart disease. Patients who have been outfitted with a pacemaker will also need to have this test performed. It may also be used as part of a pre-surgery screening.

How the EKG is Conducted

The first part of the procedure is for the technologist administering the EKG to put 13 stickers on the patient’s body. They are attached to his or her arms, legs and chest in specific locations. Each one of the stickers is attached to a wire that is used to measure the heart beat and other information the doctor needs.

Once the testing procedure has been completed, the technologist will remove the stickers. A doctor will review the test strip to determine the results of the test.

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