What to Expect
Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG)
What is an electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG)?
An electrocardiogram (ECG) records the electrical activity of the heart. Sometimes this test is called an EKG.
Why is an ECG done?
The test is used to check if the heart rate and rhythm are normal. An ECG also helps doctors see if your child has certain heart problems, including:
- A heart that is larger than normal (heart enlargement)
- An electrolyte imbalance
- Pericarditis and other injuries to the heart
- Electrical abnormalities such as Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome or long QT syndrome
Also, an ECG is used to check the heart before and after heart surgery or a cardiac catheterization procedure.
They can also be used to check a pacemaker or the effects of certain heart medicines.
How does an ECG work?
An ECG is a noninvasive test. The technician will place up to 13 wires (electrodes) on your child’s arms, legs and chest with stickers. The electrodes pick up tiny electrical signals from the heart and send them to a computer, which prints the information on a piece of paper for a doctor to interpret.
The ECG lets the doctor “see” the heart's electrical activity from many different viewpoints at the same time. The results look like a group of wavy lines. Each of the waves on the ECG tells the doctor about the electrical activity in a different part of the heart and can help to diagnose various heart defects and abnormalities.
Children generally have a faster resting heart rate than adults – up to 180 beats per minute in an infant. An adult’s resting heart rate is typically between 60 and 100 beats per minute.
The doctor will use the ECG to look for any abnormalities in the heart rhythm that might affect your child.
What happens during an ECG?
Your child will lie down on a table. A nurse or technician will attach up to 13 electrodes to your child’s chest with stickers. These electrodes will record the electrical signals from the heart.
How long does an ECG take?
An ECG takes about 5 to 10 minutes.
When will we get the results of the ECG?
If your child’s ECG is done as part of a clinic visit, the results will be given to you during that visit. Otherwise, results take 48 to 72 hours and will be faxed to the provider who requested the ECG.
Contact the Heart Center at 206-987-2015 for a cardiac referral, a second opinion or more information.