Electrocardiogram

Definition

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.

ECG Waves
nucleus image
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Reasons for Test

An ECG is used to:

  • Diagnose heart attacks 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 potassium and magnesium
  • 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
  • Weakness
  • Nausea
  • History of fainting

An ECG may also be done if you:

  • Are about to have surgery with general anesthesia
  • 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 pacemaker

Possible Complications

There are no major problems linked to this test.

What to Expect

Prior to Test

You may:

  • Be asked about your health history.
  • Your chest may be shaved.

Description of Test

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.

After Test

You can return to your normal activity after the test.

How Long Will It Take?

3-4 minutes

Will It Hurt?

No

Results

Your doctor will review the ECG. The results may lead to:

  • Diagnosis
  • 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.

Revisions

Please note, not all procedures included in this resource library are available at Henry Ford Allegiance Health or performed by Henry Ford Allegiance Health physicians.

All EBSCO Publishing proprietary, consumer health and medical information found on this site is accredited by URAC. URAC's Health Web Site Accreditation Program requires compliance with 53 rigorous standards of quality and accountability, verified by independent audits. To send comments or feedback to our Editorial Team regarding the content please email us at HLEditorialTeam@ebscohost.com.

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

Editorial Policy | Privacy Policy | Terms and Conditions | Support
Copyright © 2008 EBSCO Publishing. All rights reserved.

Regular exercise, such as walking, playing tennis, weight lifting, yoga or using a rowing machine can reduce the likelihood of bone fractures in people with osteoporosis.