An electrocardiogram is a test that measures the electrical activity in your heart. It’s sometimes called an EKG or an ECG. If hearing “electrical activity” and “heart” together seems scary—don’t worry. The test is simple and painless.
At Maryland Cardiology Associates in Greenbelt, Maryland, our providers offer several diagnostic tests that provide important information about your heart’s function and health.
If your doctor suggests you need an electrocardiogram, this means they want to learn about the electric signals in your heart. The test can provide information to help your doctor understand how to best treat any issues you may have.
The basics of an EKG
Most of the time, an EKG is a simple, in-office test that involves attaching sticky electrodes to your chest, legs, and arms. These electrodes record your heart’s electrical activity and produce an image that lets your cardiologist understand how your blood is flowing through your body.
Usually, the test takes about 10 minutes. The only potential pain involved is if your hair is pulled as the electrodes are removed. You don’t need to do anything special to prepare for an EKG, but we do ask that you avoid using lotion or moisturizers, which can prevent the electrodes from sticking properly. We’ll also ask about any medications you’re taking, so bring a list.
What we can learn
When you have an EKG, we can learn about your heart rhythm, whether blood is flowing through your heart correctly, if you’ve had a heart attack, if your heart muscle is thicker than it should be, or if there are problems with your electrolytes.
This information can help your doctor diagnose specific issues such as arrhythmia or damage to your heart.
Special types of EKGs
We may ask you to do a special kind of EKG to detect a problem that comes and goes. For example, a stress test is an EKG performed while you’re exercising. We place the electrodes, then ask you to walk on a treadmill or ride a stationary bicycle.
Sometimes we ask you to wear a special monitor that records your heart’s activity over time. A Holter monitor is designed to be worn anywhere from 24 hours to 2 weeks. An event recorder is similar but instead of recording all the time, it only records when something is different. A loop recorder is an implantable device that allows for continuous monitoring of your heart’s activity.
Why we might ask for an EKG
We may ask you to have an EKG if you have the following symptoms:
- Chest pain
- Difficulty breathing
- Feeling tired or weak
- Racing or fluttering heartbeat
- A feeling of unevenness in your heartbeat
Your doctor may also request an electrocardiogram if they hear something that doesn’t sound normal when they listen to your heartbeat.
An EKG is a quick, painless, but important test that gives your doctor information about caring for you in the best way possible. If you need an electrocardiogram, schedule an appointment at Maryland Cardiology Associates today. Call our office or book a visit online.