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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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This information is provided by Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition.

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