Electrocardiogram (EKG): Reasons For Procedure
An electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) measures the electrical activity of your heart. The heart generates an electrical signal, which flows out from your heart through your body. Small electrical sensors, called electrodes, are put on your skin to sense the electricity that began in your heart. The electrical activity is then turned into a graph. This can give doctors an idea of whether your heart is beating normally.
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An ECG is used to:
- Diagnose heart attacks and rhythm problems
- Offer clues about other heart conditions and conditions not primarily related to the heart
- Detect conditions that alter the body’s balance of electrolytes (such as potassium and magnesium)
- Detect other problems, such as overdoses of certain drugs
Symptoms that may prompt an ECG include:
- Chest discomfort or pain
- Shortness of breath
- Palpitations (fast heartbeats)
- Nausea or the feeling that you have to vomit
- Abdominal pain
- History of fainting
- Taking certain drugs
An ECG may also be obtained if you:
- Are about to have surgery with general anesthesia—to detect heart conditions that could worsen during surgery and put you at risk
- Are in occupations that stress the heart or where public safety is a concern
- Are an older adult or have diabetes—to obtain a record to compare with future ECGs
- Already have heart disease—to check occasionally for any changes
- Have had a heart-related procedure, such as getting a pacemaker
Last reviewedSeptember 2012by Michael J. Fucci, DO
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.