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The heart is a muscular pump made up of four chambers. The two upper chambers are called atria, and the two lower chambers are called ventricles. A natural electrical system causes the heart muscle to contract and pump blood through the heart to the lungs and the rest of the body.

An electrocardiogram (EKG) checks the electrical activity of your heart and then It translates this activity into line tracings on paper. The spikes and dips in the line tracings are called waves. 

How the EKG is Performed

An EKG is usually perfomed by a health professional and the results are interpreted by a cardiology specialist.

All new patients at High Plains Heart and Vascular Center will receive a baseline EKG and then one least annually or as needed. EKG equipment is often portable, so the test can be done almost anywhere. If you are in the hospital, your heart may be continuously monitored by an EKG system; this process is called telemetry.

During an EKG:

  • You will lie on the exam table.
  • Several electrodes are attached to the skin on each arm and leg and on your chest. These are hooked to a machine that traces your heart activity onto paper. After the procedure, the electrode paste is removed.
  • You will be asked to lie very still and breathe normally during the test. Sometimes you may be asked to hold your breath. You should not talk during the test.

How to Prepare

Many medicines may change the results of this test. Be sure to tell your doctor about any nonprescription and prescription medicines you are taking. If you take heart medicine, your doctor will tell you how to take this medicine before your EKG test.

Remove all jewelry from your neck, arms, and wrists. Men are usually bare-chested during the test. Women may often wear a bra, T-shirt, or gown.

Talk to your doctor about any concerns you have regarding the need for the test, its risks, how it will be done, or what the results will mean. 

Why the EKG is Performed

An electrocardiogram is done to:

  • Check your heart's electrical activity.
  • Find the cause of unexplained chest pain, which could be caused by a heart attack, inflammation of the sac surrounding the heart (pericarditis), or angina.
  • Find the cause of symptoms of heart disease, such as shortness of breath, dizziness, fainting, or rapid, irregular heartbeats (palpitations).
  • Find out if the walls of the heart chambers are too thick (hypertrophied).
  • Check how well medicines are working and whether they are causing side effects that affect the heart.
  • Check how well mechanical devices that are implanted in your heart, such as pacemakers, are working to control a normal heartbeat.
  • Check the health of your heart when other diseases or conditions are present, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, cigarette smoking, diabetes, or a family history of early heart disease.