Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG)

What is electrocardiogram?

An electrocardiogram (abbreviated as ECG or EKG) is a common diagnostic test that measures the electrical activity of the heart. This simple and painless test provides valuable information about the heart’s rhythm, rate, and electrical function. This test can be done while an individual is lying down and at rest, or it may be performed during exercise as part of a stress test. An ECG recording of the signals looks like wavy lines. The cardiologist can read these lines to look for abnormal heart activity that may indicate heart disease or damage.

Who conducts electrocardiograms?

ECG can be performed by various healthcare professionals, including doctors, cardiologists, nurses, or trained technicians. It is typically done in a healthcare setting such as a hospital, clinic, or doctor’s office.

Why electrocardiograms are done?

ECGs can be performed in a variety of situations, including:

  • Routine check-ups: As part of a regular health assessment, doctors may include an ECG to evaluate the heart’s electrical activity and detect abnormalities.
  • Chest pain or heart-related symptoms: If an individual experiences chest pain, palpitations, shortness of breath, or other symptoms that may suggest a heart condition, an ECG can help determine the cause and help for further evaluation.
  • Pre-surgical evaluation: Before undergoing certain surgical procedures, an ECG may be conducted to assess the heart’s function and ensure it is safe to proceed with the surgery.
  • Monitoring heart conditions: If an individual has a known heart condition or is receiving treatment for it, regular ECGs may be performed to monitor the effectiveness of treatment and track any changes in the heart’s electrical activity.


Following steps are involved during ECG.

  • The patient is asked to lie down on an examination table.
  • The nurse or doctor will attach several electrodes, which are small sensors that stick to the skin, to specific locations on the arms, legs, and chest. Sometimes, they may need to remove any body hair or use a small amount of gel to ensure the electrodes adhere properly.
  • The electrodes are connected to wires that transmit the electrical signals from the heart to a computer or a specialized ECG machine.
  • Once everything is set up, the patient will be instructed to lie still and relax while the ECG machine records the heart’s electrical activity.
  • The electrical signals are displayed on a computer screen or printed on paper, visually representing the heart’s electrical patterns.

The entire process usually takes just a few minutes to complete, and it is painless.


  1. American Heart Association. (2021). Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG). Available from: https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/heart-attack/diagnosing-a-heart-attack/electrocardiogram-ecg-or-ekg
  2. Mayo Clinic. (2021). Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG). Available from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/ekg/a bout/pac-20384983
  3. Cleveland Clinic. Echocardiogram (EKG). Available from: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diagnostics/16953-electrocardiogram-ekg
  4. Electrocardiogram. Available from: https://medlineplus.gov/lab-tests/electrocardiogram/

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