An EKG or electrocardiogram is a type of heart test that tracks your heart’s electrical activity and shows it on a screen as a moving line or records it on moving paper. Doctors use EKGs to analyze the rhythm of the heart, detect abnormalities and check for cardiac issues that could cause severe health problems like heart attack or stroke.
Doctors use the EKG monitoring procedure to measure:
- The speed your heart is beating and if it’s beating normally
- Any heart damage
- The effects of devices like pacemakers that control the heart
- The effects of drugs
- The position and size of the chambers of your heart
It’s typically the first test doctors use for individuals with heart disease. They might order the test if:
- You have a scheduled surgery
- You have palpitations or chest pain
- You’ve had heart issues in the past
Before an EKG Monitoring Procedure
There really isn’t any special preparations for an EKG. You’ll want to avoid exercising and drinking cold water before your EKG. Cold water could change the recorded electrical patterns on the test. Exercise increases your heart rate, and therefore can affect the results of the test. In some cases, depending on why you’re receiving an EKG, the doctor might ask you to stop taking certain medicines you’re on for a couple days before your test.
A doctor, technician or nurse will perform the test. You’ll be provided with a hospital gown and asked to lay down on the exam table. Once you’re in position, the doctor will attach electrodes, or leads (typically ten) using easy-to-remove, sticky adhesive to your body — one on each leg and arm and six on your chest. If you are very hairy in the areas where the healthcare provider needs to place the electrodes, they might shave you.
During an EKG Monitoring Procedure
The electrodes are flat, coin-shaped plates with wires that attach to the EKG machine. They detect your heart’s electrical activity and transmit the data to the machine, where it’s processed and printed out or saved electronically as an EKG tracing.
The doctor will take readings for around five minutes. You will need to stay still during this time since motion could disrupt the pattern. There isn’t any discomfort or pain associated with an EKG.
After an EKG Monitoring Procedure
After your EKG, you can go back to your normal activities.
The doctor will review your test and look at the waves that were recorded during your test to check if the impulses are traveling properly. They’ll let you know your EKG results either at your next appointment or the same day they perform the test.
If your EKG is normal, you might not require any further testing. However, if there are any abnormalities with your heart shown in the results, you might require another EKG or another diagnostic test like an echocardiogram. If the EKG shows any results of a serious health issue, the doctor will contact you right away. If treatment is required, it will depend on the cause of your symptoms. The doctor will sit down with you and discuss your treatment plan.