An electrocardiogram — abbreviated as EKG or ECG — is a test that measures the electrical activity of the heartbeat. With each beat, an electrical impulse (or “wave”) travels through the heart. This wave causes the muscle to squeeze and pump blood from the heart. A normal heartbeat on ECG will show the timing of the upper and lower chambers.
The upper chambers make the first wave on the graph called a “P wave" — followed by a flat line when the heart’s electrical impulse travels to the lower chambers. The lower chambers, or ventricles, make the next wave called a “QRS complex." The final wave or “T wave” represents electrical recovery or return to a resting state for the ventricles. (See labeled diagram)
Why is an EKG Recommended?
An EKG provides two major kinds of information.
First, a trained professional can read the graph to determine how long the electrical wave takes to pass through the heart. The speed of the heart’s rhythm patterns can help identify if the electrical activity is normal or slow, fast, or irregular.
Second, by measuring the amount of electrical activity passing through the heart muscle, your healthcare team may be able to tell if parts of your heart are overworked or have become enlarged.
Does it hurt?
No. There’s no pain or risk associated with having an electrocardiogram. When the EKG stickers are removed, there may be some minor discomfort.
Is it harmful?
No. The machine only records the EKG. It doesn’t send electricity into the body.
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