An electrocardiogram, or ECG, looks at your heart’s rate, rhythm and electrical activity. In the first of our new series, Professor Peter Macfarlane tells Senior Cardiac Nurse Emily Reeve what this simple test involves.
Why would I have this test?
An ECG is one of the most common heart tests. It is the only way of uncovering certain problems with the heart’s electrical impulses. There are a number of reasons why someone may have an ECG, including an irregular heartbeat, shortness of breath when they exert themselves, significantly high blood pressure, palpitations or a suspected heart valve problem. It can also be a useful way of ruling out problems. If your doctor recommends an ECG, think of it as a basic investigation.
What does the test involve?
The ECG is a simple test, with 10 electrodes used to record 12 different views of your heart’s electrical activity. You don’t need to do anything to prepare for it. An electrode is attached to each ankle and wrist with sticky pads and six more are attached to the chest. The patient lies almost flat with the head and chest raised a little. Relaxing for a few minutes before the recording is made is important, as this allows the electrode connections to stabilise and means the ECG will be more reliable. During this time, your details can be recorded on the ECG machine.