An electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) measures the electrical activity of your heart. The heart generates an electrical signal, which flows out from your heart through your body. Small electrical sensors, called electrodes, are put on your skin to sense the electricity that began in your heart. The electrical activity is then turned into a graph. This can give doctors an idea of whether your heart is beating normally.
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An ECG is used to:
- Diagnose heart attacks and rhythm problems
- Offer clues about other heart conditions and conditions not primarily related to the heart
- Detect conditions that alter the body’s balance of electrolytes, such as potassium and magnesium
- Detect other problems, such as overdoses of certain drugs
Symptoms that may prompt an ECG include:
- Chest discomfort or pain
- Shortness of breath
- Nausea or the feeling that you have to vomit
- History of fainting
An ECG may also be obtained if you:
Last reviewedMay 2013by Michael J. Fucci, DO; Brian Randall, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.