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EKG, also known as ECG or electrocardiogram, is a recording of the electrical activity of the heart. It is a quick and painless procedure which can detect a variety of heart conditions. EKGs capture a tracing of cardiac electrical impulse as it moves from the atrium to the ventricles. These electrical impulses cause the heart to contract and pump blood

EKG helps physicians evaluate the following conditions:

Abnormalities in the heart’s shape and size: An abnormal EKG can signal that one or more aspects of the heart’s walls are larger than another.

Heart attack or ischemia: During a heart attack, blood flow in the heart is affected and heart tissue can begin to lose oxygen and die. This tissue will not conduct electricity as well, which can cause an abnormal EKG. Ischemia, or lack of blood flow, may also cause an abnormal EKG.

Heart rate abnormalities: An EKG can detect if the heart is beating too fast (tachycardia) or too slow (bradycardia).

Heart rhythm abnormalities: Normally a heart beats in a steady rhythm. An EKG can reveal if the heart is beating abnormally which is known as arrhythmia.

Electrolyte imbalances: Electrolytes like potassium, calcium, and magnesium can cause irregularities in the heart rhythm. If one of these electrolytes is imbalanced, it can cause an abnormal EKG reading.

Medication side effects: Certain medications can impact a heart’s rate and rhythm. Examples of medications that alter heart rhythm include beta-blockerscalcium channel blockers, or digoxin.

What can you expect during an EKG

For an EKG, no special precautions is needed. You may be asked to change into a hospital gown. Then you'll lie on an examining table or bed.

Electrodes — typically 10 — will be attached to your chest and sometimes to your limbs. The electrodes are sticky patches applied to help record the electrical activity of your heart. Each one has a wire attached to a monitor. If you have hair on the parts of your body where the electrodes will be placed, the technician may shave the hair so that the patches stick.

You can breathe normally during the electrocardiogram. Make sure you're warm and ready to lie still. Moving, talking or shivering may distort the test results. A standard ECG takes a few minutes.

As you lie on the examination table or bed, the electrodes will record the impulses that make your heart beat. The impulses are recorded by a computer and displayed as waves on a monitor or printed on paper.