What is an EKG?

An electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG) is a painless test used to record the heart’s electrical activity and possibly reveal issues with the heart’s rhythm, such as an arrhythmia or other signs of underlying heart trouble.

The EKG test involves placing small electrode patches on the skin. Wires from the electrodes run to the EKG machine. The tracings on the machine show the heart’s electrical activity.

These tracings often can show the cardiologist whether there is an abnormality that requires additional testing and/or treatment.

Different types of EKG tests can provide important information about how your child’s heart is working.

Routine EKG

The most common type of EKG records the heart’s electrical activity for 10 seconds. For this test, 12 to 15 electrode patches are placed on the chest, arms and legs. The best test requires the patient to be still while the EKG machine records the heart. This helps minimize interference with the test.

A routine EKG allows for detailed information about the underlying heart rhythm during the test. It also provides information about other conditions that might affect how the heart is functioning.

Norton Children’s Heart Institute

Norton Children’s Heart Institute, affiliated with the University of Louisville, offers a range of diagnostic tools and treatments at locations across Kentucky and in Southern Indiana.

Holter monitor

A holter monitor is a type of EKG that uses fewer skin electrodes than the routine EKG but records the heart rhythm for a much longer time, up to 24 to 48 hours.

Holter monitors are helpful to examine abnormalities that come and go, to capture extreme and average heart rates over time, and to record the underlying heart rhythm during symptoms like palpitations or chest pain.


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