ECG or EKG (Electrocardiogram)

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What is an EKG or ECG (Electrocardiogram)?

An EKG is the short way of saying electrocardiogram. The electrocardiogram takes pictures of the electrical activity of your heart and around your body. As your heart works it sends electrical signals around your body. The EKG machine uses these electrical signals to create an electrocardiogram, a picture of your heart activity. The picture can show the doctor how fast your heart beats, and the rhythm (heart beat pattern) of your heart. No matter what you are doing, whether you are running, reading or sleeping, your heart is always working and sending electrical signals.

Why do I need to have an EKG?

When the doctor wants to see how your heart is working, special pictures need to be taken. The EKG takes pictures of the electrical activity in your heart and around your body. It helps the doctor to see how your heart is working, how fast it is beating and the rhythm (heart beat pattern) it makes.

What does an EKG machine look like? 

An EKG is a computer that has lots of wires attached to it. It also has a printer attached to it. The wires have a sticky soft tape end that attaches to your chest, arms and legs. There is a bed that is beside the EKG computer, this is where you will lie down. The picture of how your heart beats is printed off to show the doctor.

What happens when I have an EKG?

A porter will come and bring you to the area where you will have the EKG. Sometimes the technologist (the person who will take the pictures) can come to your room to do this test. A technologist will greet you and explain what will happen. You may be given a gown to wear, this looks like a backward housecoat, or you may already be wearing one.

The technologist will ask you to lie down on a bed. She will then use the wires that are attached to the machine and place them on your chest, arms and legs. Small sticky soft pieces of tape are first placed on your chest, arms and legs. The wires called electrodes are then attached to the tape; they measure the electrical signals in your heart. Only the tape touches your skin, the wires do not.

It is important to lie very still on the bed while the test is happening. The test only takes a few minutes. Once it is done, the technologist will remove the soft tape from your chest, arms and legs, and you are able to go back to your room.

What will the EKG test feel like?

An electrocardiogram does not hurt. The tape is a special gentle tape that is less sticky than a regular Band-Aid. All you have to do is to remember to lie still, so that the pictures they take are clear.

Preparing for the test

Your nurse will give you the information you need to help you get ready to have your EKG. There is nothing that you really have to do to get ready for this test.


If you have any questions about the test, always ask!

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