Are you having shortness of breath, chest discomfort, or a racing heart? Your doctor may ask you to have an EKG.

An electrocardiogram, or EKG, is an effective, safe and painless procedure for checking your heart.

Many patients have an EKG right in their provider’s office. Or patients may be referred to a medical facility that specializes in diagnostic technologies.

What is an EKG?

An electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG) tracks electrical activity in the heart. The electrical activity is what keeps the heart pumping and on pace.

The EKG shows:

  • Damage to the heart
  • How fast the heart is beating
  • Effects of drugs or assistive heart devices
  • Characteristics of the heart chambers

Sometimes an EKG is done while a patient is exercising. This is one type of stress test. Stress tests can help determine if there are abnormalities when the heart is working harder.

There are no risks or pain with EKG testing.

EKG helps with diagnosing heart problems

An EKG will show if there is abnormal electrical activity (arrhythmia) in the heart. Abnormal heart activity can be caused by:

  • Damage or changes to the heart muscles
  • Abnormalities with electrolytes
  • Congenital heart defect
  • Heart enlargement
  • Inflammation of the heart or the sac surrounding the heart (myocarditis or pericarditis)
  • Fluid in the sac around the heart
  • Past or current heart attack
  • Poor blood supply to the heart arteries
  • Side effects of some medications

Tell your provider if you are taking any drugs. Medications can alter the results of an EKG.

EKG process

Patients lie on a table and have patches or pads placed on their chest, arms, and legs. These pads are connected to the EKG machine, which reads the heartbeats and electric activity of the heart.

These waves are recorded digitally or written on a paper by the machine.   Obtaining an EKG takes only a few minutes.