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What is an ECG?

An electrocardiogram (ECG) is a non-invasive diagnostic test that measures the heart’s electrical activity or heartbeat. It is recorded using electrodes or sticky patches placed strategically over the chest and extremities. These electrodes pick up on the heart’s electrical activity to produce a graph of waveforms that shows your physician multiple cardiac cycles.

Who needs an ECG?

An ECG is a fast, reliable diagnostic tool administered to most patients who visit a cardiologist. Among other things, an ECG can:

  • Detect an arrhythmia
  • Identify the cause of an arrhythmia
  • Monitor a medication effect
  • Determine if there is evidence of a heart attack
  • Investigate evidence of coronary artery blockages
  • Determine normal pacemaker functioning

Your physician may recommend an ECG if you experience any symptoms that may suggest a heart problem, such as:

  • Chest pain
  • Trouble breathing
  • Feeling tired or weak
  • Pounding, racing or fluttering of your heart

What happens during an ECG?

ECGs are quick, painless tests that can be completed in less than 10 minutes. After you change into a gown, a technician will attach 12 small, soft, sticky electrodes to your chest, arms and legs. These electrodes are then attached to several wires, which are attached to the ECG machine. During the test, you will lie still on a table while the machine records your heart’s electoral activity. 

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