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EKG / ECG

What is an electrocardiogram (ECG)?

An electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) is one of the simplest and fastest procedures used to evaluate the heart. Electrodes (small, plastic patches) are placed at certain locations on your child's chest, arms, and legs. When the electrodes are connected to the ECG machine by lead wires, the electrical activity of your child's heart is measured, interpreted, and printed out for the physician's information and further interpretation.

Why is an ECG performed?

The electrical activity of the heart is measured by an electrocardiogram. By placing electrodes at specific locations on the body (chest, arms, and legs), a graphic representation, or tracing, of the electrical activity can be obtained. Changes in an ECG from the normal tracing can indicate one, or more, of several heart-related conditions.

Some medical conditions which may cause changes in the ECG pattern include, but are not limited to, the following:

This list is presented as an example. It is not intended to be a comprehensive list of all conditions which may cause changes in the ECG pattern.

An ECG may also be performed for other reasons, including, but not limited to, the following:

How does the physician know what an ECG means?

Almost everyone knows what a basic ECG tracing looks like. But what does it mean?

Illustration of a basic EKG tracing

When your child's physician studies your child's ECG, he/she looks at the size and length of each part of the ECG. Variations in size and length of the different parts of the tracing may be significant. The tracing for each lead of a 12-lead ECG will look different, but will have the same basic components as described above. Each lead of the 12-lead is "looking" at a specific part of the heart, so variations in a lead may indicate a problem with the part of the heart associated with the lead.

What is the procedure for an ECG?

An ECG can be performed almost anywhere, as the equipment is very compact and portable. Thus, your child may undergo an ECG in a physician's office, the ECG department of the hospital or clinic, in a procedure or testing area, in the emergency department, or even in the hospital room or bed. The equipment used includes the ECG machine, skin electrodes, and lead wires which attach the electrodes to the ECG machine.

An ECG normally takes approximately five to 10 minutes, including attaching and detaching electrodes. During an ECG:

Depending on the results of the ECG, additional tests or procedures may be scheduled to gather further diagnostic information.

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