Amy Scholten, MPH
An electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) measures the electrical activity of your heart. The heart generates an electrical signal, which flows out from your heart through your body. Small electrical sensors, called electrodes, are put on your skin to sense the electricity that began in your heart. The electrical activity is then turned into a graph. This can give doctors an idea of whether your heart is beating normally.
An ECG is used to:
Symptoms that may prompt an ECG include:
An ECG may also be obtained if you:
There are no major complications associated with this test.
You will be asked to lie quietly on your back with your shirt off. Six small, sticky pads with attached wires will be placed across your chest. Others will be placed on your arms and legs. The wires will connect to the ECG machine. You will not feel anything during the test.
You may resume activities as recommended by your doctor.
Your doctor will interpret the ECG. Based on the results and your other health information, you may need more tests or a treatment plan.
Call your doctor if you have heart-related symptoms, such as chest pain or trouble breathing.
If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.
American Heart Association
Heart Rhythm Society
Canadian Cardiovascular Society
Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada
Electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG). American Heart Association website. Available at:
http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HeartAttack/SymptomsDiagnosisofHeartAttack/Electrocardiogram-ECG-or-EKG_UCM_309050_Article.jsp. Updated November 26, 2012. Accessed May 20, 2013.
Noninvasive tests and procedures. American Heart Association website. Available at:
http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HeartAttack/SymptomsDiagnosisofHeartAttack/Non-Invasive-Tests-and-Procedures_UCM_303930_Article.jsp. Updated April 15, 2013. Accessed May 20, 2013.
What is an electrocardiogram? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at:
http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/ekg/. Updated October 1, 2010. Accessed May 20, 2013.
Last reviewed May 2013 by Michael J. Fucci, DO; Brian Randall, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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