Electrocardiogram (EKG)

Measuring and monitoring your heart’s rhythm

An electrocardiogram, commonly referred to as an EKG, is a routine way to monitor the status of the heart, detecting problems both major and minor, by tracking and recording the electrical activity of your heart and recording it on a moving paper or as a moving line on a digital screen. They produce results in a matter of minutes, which makes the EKG an important tool for diagnosing heart conditions which sometimes require medical action quickly.

How an EKG works

As the electrical signals move through the heart, the EKG monitor records the timing and strength of the signals. This data is gathered through a series of electrodes and leads, placed on the skin of your chest and limbs. The activity patterns measured by these electrodes are then produced on the screen or paper for the health care provider to interpret.

What to expect during an EKG

You will be asked to remove your shirt or top in order to expose your chest, and then lie down on the exam table. A medical assistant or nurse will attach electrodes, which attach to the skin much like an adhesive bandage, placing them around your heart. Other leads may be placed on your arms or legs depending on the complexity of the EKG. If you have excessive body hair, a small area may be shaved to ensure the electrode stickers adhere properly. Once all electrode stickers are attached, the test should take no longer than a few minutes to perform. You cannot feel anything before, during, or after the test; there is no pain or discomfort involved.