What you can expect

During the ECG

An electrocardiogram can be done in a doctor's office or hospital and is often performed by a technician. You may be asked to change into a hospital gown. Then you'll lie on an examining table or bed.

Electrodes — typically 10 — will be attached to chest and sometimes to your limbs. The electrodes are sticky patches applied to help record the electrical activity of your heart. Each one has a wire attached to a monitor. If you have hair on the parts of your body where the electrodes will be placed, the technician may shave the hair so that the patches stick.

You can breathe normally during the electrocardiogram. Make sure you're warm and ready to lie still. Moving, talking or shivering may distort the test results. A standard ECG takes a few minutes.

As you lie on the examination table or bed, the electrodes will record the impulses that make your heart beat. The impulses are recorded by a computer and displayed as waves on a monitor or printed on paper.

After the ECG

You can resume your normal activities after your electrocardiogram.

Your doctor will look at the waves recorded during your test to see if the impulses are traveling normally. He or she will be able to tell you the results of your ECG the same day it's performed or at your next appointment.

If your electrocardiogram is normal, you may not need any other tests. If the results show an abnormality with your heart, you may need another ECG or other diagnostic tests, such as an echocardiogram. Treatment depends on what's causing your signs and symptoms.