What is an ECG?
An electrocardiogram is used to monitor your heart. Each beat of your heart is triggered by an electrical impulse generated from cells in the upper right chamber of your heart. An electrocardiogram (called an ECG) tracks and records these electrical signals as they travel through your heart. The recording is called a trace. Your doctor can use the trace to look for patterns among these heartbeats and rhythms to diagnose various heart conditions.
An electrocardiogram is a noninvasive, painless test. The results of your electrocardiogram will likely be reported the same day it's performed, and your doctor will discuss them with you at your next appointment.
What is an ECG used for?
An electrocardiogram is a painless, noninvasive way to diagnose many common types of heart problems.
ECGs from normal, healthy hearts have a characteristic shape. Any irregularity in the heart rhythm or damage to the heart muscle can change the electrical activity of the heart so that the shape of the ECG is changed.
A doctor may request an ECG be performed for patients who may be at risk of heart disease because there is a family history of heart disease, or because they smoke, are overweight, or have diabetes, high cholesterol or high blood pressure.
Your doctor may use an electrocardiogram to detect:
- Irregularities in your heart rhythm (arrhythmias)
- Heart defects
- Problems with your heart's valves
- Blocked or narrowed arteries in your heart (coronary artery disease)
- A heart attack, in emergency situations
- A previous heart attack
What to Expect
An electrocardiogram can be performed by our trained pathology collectors in our patient collection centres, click here for details.
You will be asked to remove all clothing from the waist up, and any stockings, socks and shoes. You will then be asked to lie on an examination bed. Electrodes will be attached to your arms, legs and chest. The electrodes are sticky patches applied with a gel to help detect and conduct the electrical currents of your heart. If you have hair on the parts of your body where the electrodes will be placed, the pathology collector may need to shave the hair so that the electrodes stick properly.
Make sure you're warm and ready to lie still. Moving, talking or shivering may distort the ECG test results. A standard ECG takes just a few minutes.
The electrodes are then removed. An ECG is completely painless and non-invasive, as the skin is not penetrated.
The ECG is a safe procedure with no known risks. It does not send electric current to the body. On occasion the patient may be allergic or sensitive to the electrodes causing local skin reddening.
The patient can resume normal activities. The ECG is non-invasive and doesn’t involve medications or require recovery time.
When completed, the trace will be transmitted to our specialist cardiologists for interpretation and reporting back to your treating doctor.