An EKG is a simple, painless test that records the heart’s electrical activity, showing its rate and rhythm. With each heartbeat, an electrical signal spreads from the top of the heart to the bottom and causes the heart to contract and pump blood.
An EKG is a primary tool to detect and evaluate many heart problems such as heart attack and arrhythmia.
Why Did My Doctor Order an EKG?
Your doctor may recommend an EKG if you have signs or symptoms that suggest a heart problem. Examples of such signs and symptoms include:
- Chest pain
- Heart pounding, racing, or fluttering, or the sense that your heart is beating unevenly
- Problems breathing
- Feeling tired and weak
- Unusual heart sounds when your doctor listens to your heartbeat
In the absence of any symptoms, an EKG may be done as part of a routine health exam, especially if you have a family history of heart disease. Your doctor may also use EKG to evaluate how well heart medicine or a pacemaker is working.
You may have an EKG so your doctor can check how well heart medicine or a medical device, such as a pacemaker, is working. The test also may be used for routine screening before major surgery.
An EKG exam is painless and quick (the entire test takes about 10 minutes). A technician attaches electrodes—soft, sticky patches about the size of a quarter—to your chest, arms and legs. Then you lay still while a machine records your heart’s electrical signals.
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