What is an EKG?

By Meghan Bailey on Mar 29, 2016

An EKG monitors the electrical impulses your heart sends out every time that it beats. The test allows doctors to monitor the status and health of your heart by tracking the pattern and rhythm of your heartbeat. The best part is that an EKG is a non-invasive painless test with quick results!

Doctors use EKGs for several reasons, including:

  • finding irregularities in your heart rhythm
  • determining if blocked or narrowed arteries in your heart are causing chest pain or a heart attack
  • searching for structural heart chamber problems
  • monitoring health after a previous heart attack
  • following ongoing heart disease treatment, such as pacemakers and stints
  • acting as an early screening test if you have a family history of heart disease

Not only are EKGs non-invasive and painless, but they also pose virtually no risks and no preparation is required, so you won’t have to fast or take any medication beforehand.

To perform an EKG, an EKG technician will place 12-15 electrodes to your arms, legs, and chest. The electrodes are attached to your skin via sticky patches and gel or tape. You can breathe normally and lie still on the exam table while the EKG technician monitors the electrical currents from your heart. It usually only takes a few minutes for the electrocardiogram to be completed. Usually your doctor will give you the results of your EKG the same day.

If you have an irregular rhythm or condition that cannot be captured in those few minutes, your doctor might recommend other tests, such as a stress test, or Holter and event monitors, depending on your condition and what your doctor is trying to diagnose. If you have any questions or concerns about your EKG, talk to your doctor during your next appointment.