Electrocardiogram (ECG) to measure electrical activity of your heart

What is an ECG?

An electrocardiogram or ECG measures the electrical activity of your heart. Analysis of the results can indicate any damage to the heart muscle. An ECG can be used to assess if you have had a heart attack or evidence of a previous heart attack. The test may also be used to detect:

  • Arrhythmias
  • Coronary heart disease
  • Heart attacks
  • Cardiomyopathy 

There are three types of ECG, recommended according to the symptoms you are displaying:

  • Resting ECG, when you are just lying down in a comfortable position
  • Stress or exercise ECG, taken whilst using a treadmill or exercise bike
  • Ambulatory ECG,  where you are required to carry a small device throughout the day and monitor the heart 

What happens during an ECG?

Electrodes are placed on your wrists, ankles and chest as you relax. The electrodes are connected to a machine recording all the electrical signals from your heart. An ECG is a completely painless test and takes less than a minute to perform once the leads are in position. After the test, the electrodes are removed.

After the test, your doctor will review the readings of the ECG machine which appear as a series of waves.

How safe is it?

The electrocardiogram is a safe, simple and painless test that takes less than a minute to carry out. There will be no electricity put through your body. You may experience a slight discomfort once the electrodes are being removed, just like removing a plaster.

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