Electrocardiogram (ECG) A tracing of your heart
An electrocardiogram is an essential cardiac test
and should be considered for all patients with potential cardiac symptoms
An electrocardiograph (ECG) makes a tracing of the electrical activity of the heart. When interpreted correctly, an ECG can help identify heart rhythm problems causing palpitations, or help to evaluate the cause of chest pain.
"If you are having chest pain, palpitations or shortness of breath when you are walking, an ECG is essential."
Having an ECG is very straight forward. We will ask you to remove your outer clothes to expose a bare chest. If you have a hairy chest, we may need to shave some of the hairs. The technician will then attach sticky electrodes across the chest, onto the shoulders and onto your leg. Leads are then attached to each of these electrodes and these all connect to a small console. We will ask you to lie very still so the machine can take an accurate reading of the heart’s electrical activity. In some cases, we may need to make many recordings to get a satisfactory tracing.
Interpreting an ECG can be tricky and takes many years of experience. Knowing the clinical history can make a big difference, so if you have had heart problems in the past, do please let us know. The shape of some markers on the ECG can show signs of a previous heart attack, damage to the electrical wiring of the heart, or a propensity to certain arrhythmias.
An ECG provides a single snap-shot at that moment. For certain heart rhythm problems, a single ECG will not be sufficient to make a diagnosis, and we may ask you to wear a Holter monitor.
If you are having chest pain, then an ECG can be an important precursor to other tests. For example, depending upon on your specific history it may be appropriate to undertake an exercise stress test. In others, a dobutamine stress echocardiogram or a stress perfusion MRI may provide better diagnostic information