or ECG: An EKG is an important part of the
initial evaluation of a patient who is suspected to
have a heart related problem. Small sticky electrodes
are applied to the patient's chest, arms and legs.
However, with some systems, the electrodes may be
applied to the chest, shoulders and the sides of the
lower chest, or hips . Wires are used to connect the
patient to an EKG machine. You will be asked to remain
very still while a nurse or technician records the
EKG. The electrical activity created by the patient's
heart is processed by the EKG machine and then printed
on a special graph paper. This is then interpreted
by your physician. It takes a few minutes to apply
the EKG electrodes, and one minute to make the actual
The EKG is extremely safe and there
is no risk involved. In rare cases, some people may
develop skin irritation from the electrode adhesive,
but no serious allergic reactions have been reported.
The only preparation for an EKG
to wear clothes that allow easy access to your chest.
Thus, a blouse or shirt with buttons down the front
is a lot more practical than a pantsuit or dress.
Once you arrive in your doctor's office or in the
hospital, your chest may be cleansed with alcohol
to ensure good electrical contact with the EKG electrode.
In men with hairy chest, small areas may have to be
shaved to allow adequate skin contact with the electrode.
This avoids interfering artifacts from being recorded
on the EKG and produces a technically satisfactory
The EKG can provide important
information about the patient's heart rhythm, a previous
heart attack, increased thickness of heart muscle,
signs of decreased oxygen delivery to the heart, and
problems with conduction of the electrical current
from one portion of the heart to another. For example,
the EKG tracing shown above demonstrates an acute
or ongoing heart attack involving the bottom (or inferior
portion of the heart). An example of an EKG of a patient
with a heart attack is shown below.
It is important to remember that
EKGs are not 100% accurate. Normal recordings can
be obtained in patients with significant heart disease,
or some "abnormalities" may exist in the
presence of a normal heart.