Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG)
An electrocardiogram, also called an ECG or EKG, is a quick and painless test that measures the heart’s electrical activity.
The specialists at Norton Children’s Heart Institute, affiliated with the University of Louisville, perform EKGs at multiple locations around Louisville and Southern Indiana so you and your child can stay close to home for this routine test.
The EKG can show the heart’s rhythm, as well as the size of its chambers and their position.
Electrodes with wires are used to capture the heartbeat information. The electrodes are attached to sticky pads, which will be stuck to your child’s chest. Your child’s skin should not have any baby oil or lotion on it so the adhesive on the electrodes can stick.
Once the technician starts the EKG, the test takes about a minute. The technician or your doctor may ask your child to get up and exercise briefly.
The EKG produces a graph that shows the heart’s activity in several waves. The height, length and frequency of the waves show important information, such as:
- Heart rate: The number of waves per minute
- Heart rhythm: The distance between the waves
- Heart function: The shape of the waves shows electrical impulses, the heart’s size and how well the various parts of the heart work together
- Heart damage: The consistency of the waves can show if there is damage in the heart
How the EKG is used
The board-certified and fellowship-trained specialists at Norton Children’s Heart Institute use EKGs to look for heart rates that are too slow or too fast, abnormal rhythms and inconsistent rhythms between the upper and lower heart chambers.
Physicians can use an EKG to diagnose four types of heart damage:
- Ventricular hypertrophy: An abnormal thickening of the heart muscle
- Ischemia: Blood supply that is lower than it should be
- Cardiomyopathy: Abnormalities in the heart muscle
- Electrolyte disorders: Changes to the heart’s electrochemicals that can be caused by medications
At Norton Children’s Heart Institute, pediatric cardiologists often combine an EKG with other tests to get a more complete picture of the cause of a child’s heart issue. An example include an cchocardiogram which uses sound waves (ultrasound) to produce images of the heart and blood vessels’ structures on a screen. It can show the structure and function of the heart, which, combined with the EKG showing the heart’s electrical activity, give the pediatric cardiologists a more complete understanding of what is going on with the heart.
Why Norton Children’s Heart Institute?
Norton Children’s Heart Institute, affiliated with the University of Louisville, is a comprehensive pediatric heart surgery, heart failure and heart transplant program serving Kentucky, Southern Indiana and beyond.
The goal of the full-service Norton Children’s Heart Institute is to provide care for the child and the whole family. Our specialists are prepared to repair even the most complex congenital and acquired heart conditions.
Our heart team includes:
- Pediatric cardiothoracic surgeons
- Pediatric transplant surgeons
- Pediatric cardiologists
- Fetal cardiologists
- Adult congenital heart cardiologists
- Heart failure/heart transplant cardiologists
- Pediatric electrophysiologists
- Pediatric cardiac catheterization cardiologists
- Pediatric cardiovascular anesthesiologists
- Pediatric intensive care physicians
- Cardiac critical care nurses
- Critical care pharmacists
- Family support team
- Child life specialists
- Rehabilitation specialists
- Social workers
For more information on services or to schedule an appointment with the Norton Children’s Heart Institute:
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