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Electrocardiogram (ECG)

The ECG (also known as EKG) is a test that records electrical signals from your heart onto a paper strip. The pattern of these signals can help tell the doctor whether your heart is normal, under stress, or experiencing electrical problems, strain, or damage.

Woman lying in hospital bed. Health care provider with ECG machine is standing next to bed. Wires from ECG machine are connected to small pads stuck to woman's body.

Getting Ready

  • Wear loose, comfortable clothing that allows easy access to the chest.

  • Avoid using skin lotion, because this may make it difficult for the pads to stick. 

  • Allow enough time before your ECG to check in. You will likely need to fill out paperwork before the test.

What Happens During an ECG

  • You will be asked to remove your clothing from the waist up and to put on a gown. You will then lie down on your back.

  • Electrodes (small pads) are placed on your chest, shoulders, and legs. If you have excess chest hair that keeps the electrodes from making contact, small patches of hair may need to be shaved. 

  • The electrodes record your heart rhythm and any change in your heart’s signals that occurs during the test.

  • After a few minutes of recording, the health care provider will remove the electrodes. The ECG takes about 10 minutes.

After the Test

  • You can resume your normal activity.

  • The results are sent to your doctor.

  • Be sure to keep your follow-up appointment.

Your next appointment is:____________________

Tell Your Health Care Provider

Talk to your health care provider if you:

  • Are taking any medications

  • Feel any chest discomfort

  • Feel as though your heart is beating rapidly or irregularly (palpitations)

  • Have ever blacked out

Online Medical Reviewer: Fetterman, Anne, RN, BSN
Online Medical Reviewer: MMI board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
Date Last Reviewed: 2/19/2014
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