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Home > Fitness & Health > Health Library > Electrocardiogram (EKG)
An electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG) is a test that checks for problems with the electrical activity of your heart. An EKG shows the heart's electrical activity as line tracings on paper. The spikes and dips in the tracings are called waves.
The heart is a muscular pump made up of four chambers. The two upper chambers are called atria. The two lower chambers are called ventricles. A natural electrical system causes the heart muscle to contract. This pumps blood through the heart to the lungs and the rest of the body.
An EKG is done to:
The test usually takes 5 to 10 minutes.
The electrodes may feel cool when they are put on your chest. If you have a lot of hair on your chest, a small area may need to be shaved to put the electrodes on. When the electrodes are taken off, they may pull your skin a little.
An EKG is a completely safe test. No electricity passes through your body from the machine, and there is no danger of getting an electrical shock.
The doctor will look at the pattern of spikes and dips on your EKG to check the electrical activity in different parts of your heart. The spikes and dips are grouped into different sections that show how your heart is working.
The heart beats in a regular rhythm, usually between 60 and 100 beats per minute.
The tracing looks normal.
The heart beats too slowly (such as less than 60 beats per minute).
The heart beats too fast (such as more than 100 beats per minute).
The heart rhythm is not regular.
The tracing does not look normal.
Sometimes your EKG may look normal even when you have heart disease. For this reason, the EKG should always be looked at along with your symptoms, past health, and a physical exam.
Current as of:
August 31, 2020
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: Rakesh K. Pai MD, FACC - Cardiology, ElectrophysiologyE. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal MedicineMartin J. Gabica MD - Family MedicineAdam Husney MD - Family MedicineGeorge Philippides MD - Cardiology
Current as of: August 31, 2020
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:Rakesh K. Pai MD, FACC - Cardiology, Electrophysiology & E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine & Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine & Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & George Philippides MD - Cardiology
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