Electrocardiogram (EKG)

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What is an EKG?
An electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG) is a test that checks for problems with the electrical activity of your heart. An EKG puts the heart's electrical activity into the spikes and dips on the paper; this is your heart beat.

Why is an EKG done?
  • Check the electrical activity of the heart.
  • Find the cause of unexplained chest pain
  • Find the cause of heart disease, such as shortness of breath, dizziness, fainting or rapid, irregular heartbeats
  • Check how well medicines are working and whether they are causing side effects that affect the heart.
  • Find out if the walls of the heart chambers are too thick.
  • Check how well mechanical devices that are implanted in the heart, such as pacemakers are working to control a normal heartbeat.
  • Check the health of the heart when other diseases or conditions are present, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, cigarette smoking, diabetes, or a family history of early heart disease.
  • You may receive an EKG as part of a physical examination, as a screening before surgery.

How do I prepare?
  • Many medicines may change the results of this test. Be sure to tell the doctor about all the nonprescription and prescription medicines you take. If you take heart medicines your doctor will tell you how to take your medicines before you have this test.
  • Remove all jewelry from your neck, arms and wrist. Men are usually bare-chested during the test. Some shaving of the chest may be required. Women may often wear a bra, T shirt or gown. You will be given a cloth or paper covering to use during the test.

How is EKG done?
An EKG is usually done by a nurse in the office and interpreted by the doctor. During the EKG you will lie on a bed or table. Areas on your arms, legs and chest where small metal electrodes will be placed are cleaned and may be shaved to provide a clean smooth surface. Several electrodes or patches are attached to the skin on each arm and leg and on your chest. These are hooked to a machine that traces your heart activity onto paper. You be asked to lie very still and breathe normally or sometimes hold your breath. You should not talk during the test.

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