An electrocardiogram (EKG) is one of the simplest and fastest procedures used to evaluate the heart. Electrodes (small, plastic patches) are placed at certain locations on the chest, arms, and legs. When the electrodes are connected to an ECG machine by lead wires, the electrical activity of the heart is measured, interpreted, and printed out for the doctor’s information and further interpretation.
Physicians may request an EKG for a number of reasons, including to determine the cause of chest pain; to evaluate other signs and symptoms which may be heart-related, such as fatigue, shortness of breath, dizziness, or fainting; or to identify irregular heartbeats.
EKGs are also instrumental in determining the status of the heart prior to procedures such as surgery and/or after treatment for conditions such as a heart attack, endocarditis (inflammation or infection of one or more of the heart valves), or after procedures such as heart surgery or cardiac catheterization. EKGs can help assess the function of an implanted pacemaker and also determine the effectiveness of certain heart medications.
They can also help obtain a baseline tracing of the heart’s function during a physical examination that may be used as a comparison with future EKGs, to determine if any changes have occurred. There may be other reasons for your doctor to recommend an ECG.
An EKG is a quick, noninvasive method of assessing the heart’s function and risks associated with EKGs are minimal and rare.Previous Page Last Review Date: August 14, 2019