Your doctor may suggest you get an electrocardiogram - also called an EKG or ECG - to check for signs of heart disease. It's a test that records the electrical activity of your ticker through small electrode patches that a technician attaches to the skin of your chest, arms, and legs. EKGs are quick, safe, and painless. With this test, your doctor will be able to:
Check your heart rhythm
See if you have poor blood flow to your heart muscle (this is called ischemia)
Diagnose a heart attack
Check on things that are abnormal, such as thickened heart muscle.
How Should I Prepare for an ECG?
Some things you can do to get yourself ready:
Avoid oily or greasy skin creams and lotions the day of the test because they can keep the electrodes from making contact with your skin.
Avoid full-length hosiery, because electrodes need to be placed directly on your legs.
Wear a shirt that you can remove easily to place the leads on your chest.
What Happens During an Electrocardiogram (ECG /EKG)?
A technician will attach 10 electrodes with adhesive pads to the skin of your chest, arms, and legs. If you're a guy, you may need to have your chest hair shaved to allow a better connection. During the test you'll lie flat while a computer creates a picture, on graph paper, of the electrical impulses that move through your heart. This is called a "resting" EKG, although the same test may be used to check your heart while you exercise. It takes about 10 minutes to attach the electrodes and complete the test, but the actual recording takes only a few seconds. Your doctor will keep your EKG patterns on file so that he can compare them to tests you get in the future.
Types of ECG or EKG
There are 3 main types of ECG:
a resting ECG – carried out while you're lying down in a comfortable position
a stress or exercise ECG – carried out while you're using an exercise bike or treadmill
an ambulatory ECG – the electrodes are connected to a small portable machine worn at your waist so your heart can be monitored at home for 1 or more days.
The type of ECG you have will depend on your symptoms and the heart problem suspected. For example, an exercise ECG may be recommended if your symptoms are triggered by physical activity, whereas an ambulatory ECG may be more suitable if your symptoms are unpredictable and occur in random, short episodes.