This is an abbreviated version of the complete article.*
Electrocardiography, also referred to as ECG testing, is a noninvasive test that records the electrical activity of the heart.
ECG can establish a baseline evaluation of a person's heart and investigate newly evolving symptoms, such as chest pain, shortness of breath, or palpitations.
Physicians use different forms of ECG testing, including resting, stress, and ambulatory ECG.
During electrocardiography (ECG), electrical signals from each heartbeat are transmitted from electrodes on the patient's skin to a machine that creates a graph of the rhythm and rate of the heartbeat.
ECG helps physicians evaluate the following:
Structural heart problems;
Metabolic or hemodynamic changes;
A person's response to therapy;
Pacemaker monitoring; and
A person's heart before surgery.
There are 3 forms of ECG testing:
ECG stress test; and
Patients should not exercise strenuously just before the test.
WHAT TO EXPECT
The patient lies down and approximately 10 electrodes are attached to the person's chest and back. The electrodes record the heart's electrical impulses and transmit them to an electrocardiograph. The electrodes may be placed on top of a light layer of gel that conducts electricity.
The procedure differs for the variations of ECG:
ECG stress test. The patient walks on a treadmill or the heart is simulated with drugs.
Ambulatory ECG. The patient's heart is monitored away from the physician's office.
Most patients can resume normal activities immediately following an ECG test.
Medical Review Date: July 16, 2008
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