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An electrocardiography test (ECG or an EKG) records the electrical activity of your heart and can detect rhythm associated with heart disease. It is completed by placing stickers (called electrodes) on the patient’s chest, which can then record the electrical activity that occurs as the heart beats.

Your doctor uses the ECG to:

  • Assess your heart rhythm.
  • Diagnose poor blood flow to the heart muscle “ischemia”.
  • Diagnose a heart attack.
  • Diagnose abnormalities of your heart, such as heart chamber enlargement or detect electrical abnormalities commonly known as “arrhythmia” that patients sometimes may or may not feel.

To prepare:

  • Avoid oily or greasy skin creams and lotions the day of the test, as the cream can interfere with the sticker-skin contact.

What to wear: 

  • Wear a shirt that can be easily removed to place the leads on the chest.

What to expect: 

  • During a resting ECG, a technician will attach 12 stickers with adhesive pads to your chest, arms and legs. Men may have chest hair shaved to allow a better connection.
  • You will lie flat while the computer creates a picture, on graph paper, of the electrical impulses traveling through your heart.
  • It takes about 5 minutes to attach the electrodes and complete the test, but the actual recording takes only a few seconds.
  • Your ECG patterns will be kept on file for comparison with future ECG recordings.

After the procedure: 

  • People can resume their normal daily activities, including driving, after an ECG.
  • Your ECG will be reviewed and the results will be reported to your doctor. If necessary you may be referred for additional testing or a consultation with a physician.