ekgAn EKG, short for electrocardiogram, is a test that records the electrical activity of the heart. What the EKG records is produced as line tracings on paper.

The heart is a pump with four chambers. The atria are the two top chambers; the ventricles are the lower chambers. An electrical signal goes from the top of the heart to the bottom during each heartbeat. It makes the heart contract and pump blood.These signals determine the rhythm of the heartbeat.

This simple test of the heart is given to:

* check the heart’s electrical activity
* determine chest pain
* determine the cause of heart disease symptoms such dizziness or fainting
* determine if the heart walls are too thick
* determine how well heart medicines are working
* determine the effectiveness of such mechanical devices as pacemakers

The results of an EKG can show

* how fast or slow the heart beats
* how steady or irregular is the heart rhythm
* the timing of the electrical signals as they pass through each chamber

Test results of an EKG can also uncover other disorders that affect the function of the heart.

An EKG is usually administered by a health professional and the results are interpreted by a doctor. The test is simple and the equipment can be portable. Hospital patients often have their hearts continuously monitored by an EKG system. EKGs may often be prescribed during routine physical examinations even if there is no suspicion of heart trouble. The test is non-invasive, but the results may lead to heart surgery or heart medications if trouble is detected.

If you are given an EKG test, you will lie on a bed or table. Small metal discs called electrodes will be placed at various places on your arms, legs, and chest after the areas have been cleaned. The electrodes are hooked to the EKG machine. You should lie still and not talk during the test, which takes only a few minutes.

If you experience any problems with your heart, consult your primary care physician as to whether you should be given an EKG. The test is highly effective and generally completely painless.