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Electrocardiogram (EKG)

ECG is a device used to record on graph paper the electrical activity of the heart. The picture is drawn by a computer from information supplied by the electrodes.

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 and abnormal electrical conduction

To prepare

  • Avoid oily or greasy skin creams and lotions the day of the test. They interfere with the electrode-skin contact
  • Avoid full-length hosiery, as electrodes need to be placed directly on the legs.
  • Wear a shirt that can be easily removed to place the leads on the chest.
EKG

What to expect

  • During a resting ECG, a technician will attach 10 electrodes with adhesive pads to the skin of 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 10 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.
  • If you have questions, ask your doctor.

More Information

Reviewed: 09/13

This information is about testing and procedures and may include instructions specific to Cleveland Clinic.
Please consult your physician for information pertaining to your testing.

Talk to a Nurse: Mon. - Fri., 8:30 a.m. - 4 p.m. (ET)

Call a Heart & Vascular Nurse locally 216.445.9288 or toll-free 866.289.6911.

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