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About Having an ECG (Electrocardiogram or EKG)

What is an ECG (Electrocardiogram or EKG)?

  • An ECG is a record of your heart's electrical activity.

How is an ECG Done?

  • Ten sensors are attached to your arms, legs, and chest (around the heart area).


  • These sensors "listen" to your heartbeat.
  • Electrical impulses associated with heart contraction and relaxation are saved onto a computer and then transmitted to a cardiologist for interpretation.
  • The ECG test results will be provided to your physician, generally within one week.
  • Laboratory staff DO NOT give out ECG results.

Why is an ECG done?

  • To check the heart as part of a regular physical exam
  • To find the cause of unexplained chest pain, shortness of breath, dizziness, fainting, or rapid, irregular heartbeats (palpitations)
  • To assess how well medications or medical devices (such as pacemakers) are working
  • To check the health of the heart when other conditions are present (such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, smoking, or family history of heart disease)

Will the ECG Hurt?

  • An ECG is completely painless.
  • No electricity goes into your body.
  • There is no chance of electrical shock.

Do I need an appointment for an ECG?

  • Appointments are strongly recommended.  You will require a laboratory requisition completed by your doctor ordering an ECG. 

What information will the laboratory need from me?

  • Your name, personal health number, date of birth, address and phone number 

How long will it take to perform the ECG?

  • No more than 20 minutes and usually much less.

Are there any special instructions I need to prepare for an ECG?

  • On the day of testing, do not use oily or greasy skin creams as they cause interference. Avoid wearing full length hosiery, tights or pants that cannot be rolled up, as sensors must be placed directly on your legs.

What will the laboratory ask me to do?

  • Undress ONLY to your waist (we require a bare chest to position the ECG sensors).
  • Females will be given a paper vest to wear during testing.   
  • Your pant legs must be rolled up to above the knees. Women are requested to remove pantyhose to allow placement of the ECG sensors.
  • You can keep all jewelry on.
  • Turn off your cellphone to avoid interference.   
  • Lie flat on your back on the ECG table (bed).
  • RELAX!

What does an ECG tracing look like?

(Sample only) 

 Where can I get an ECG?