Why it's done

An electrocardiogram is a painless, noninvasive way to help diagnose many common heart problems in people of all ages. Your doctor may use an electrocardiogram to detect:

  • Irregularities in your heart rhythm (arrhythmias)
  • If blocked or narrowed arteries in your heart (coronary artery disease) are causing chest pain or a heart attack
  • Structural problems with your heart's chambers
  • A previous heart attack
  • How well certain ongoing heart disease treatments, such as a pacemaker, are working

You may need a heart rhythm test if you experience any of the following signs and symptoms:

  • Heart palpitations
  • Rapid pulse
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness, lightheadedness or confusion
  • Weakness, fatigue or a decline in ability to exercise

The American Heart Association doesn't recommend using electrocardiograms to assess adults at low risk who don't have symptoms. But if you have a family history of heart disease, your doctor may suggest an electrocardiogram as an early screening test, even if you have no symptoms.