Stethoscope on the Cardiogram

Electrocardiogram

ECG.jpg

An electrocardiogram records the electrical signals in heart. It's a common and painless test used to quickly detect heart problems and monitor heart's health.

Electrocardiograms are often done in a doctor's office, a clinic or a hospital room. ECG machines are standard equipment in operating rooms and ambulances. Some personal devices, such as smart watches, offer ECG monitoring.

Why it's done

An electrocardiogram is a painless, noninvasive way to help diagnose many common heart problems in people of all ages. Your doctor may use an electrocardiogram to determine or detect:

  • Abnormal heart rhythm (arrhythmias)

  • If blocked or narrowed arteries in your heart (coronary artery disease) are causing chest pain or a heart attack

  • Whether you have had a previous heart attack

  • How well certain heart disease treatments, such as a pacemaker, are working

You may need an ECG if you have any of the following signs and symptoms:

  • Chest pain

  • Dizziness, lightheadedness or confusion

  • Heart palpitations

  • Rapid pulse

  • Shortness of breath

  • Weakness, fatigue or a decline in ability to exercise

If your symptoms tend to come and go, they may not be captured during a standard ECG recording. In this case your doctor may recommend remote or continuous ECG monitoring. There are several different types.

  • Holter monitor. A Holter monitor is a small, wearable device that records a continuous ECG, usually for 24 to 48 hours.

  • Event monitor. This portable device is similar to a Holter monitor, but it records only at certain times for a few minutes at a time. You can wear it longer than a Holter monitor, typically 30 days. You generally push a button when you feel symptoms. Some devices automatically record when an abnormal rhythm is detected.