Lab - About Having an EKG (Electrocardiogram)

What is an EKG (Electrocardiogram)?

  • An EKG is a record of your heart's electrical activity.

How is an EKG Done?

  • Ten sensors are attached to your arms, legs, and chest (around the heart area).
  • This is indicated with a square and circle symbol on the following diagram:
  • These sensors "listen" to your heartbeat and make a wave pattern on graph paper.
  • Electrical impulses associated with heart contraction and relaxation are recorded.
  • From the pattern on your EKG tracing, your doctor can check on how your heart is doing

Why has my doctor ordered an EKG?

  • Sometimes an EKG is ordered as part of a regular physical exam.
  • To check up on a chest pain you may have told your doctor about.
  • To follow the course of a heart condition or heart disease.

Will the EKG Hurt?

  • An EKG is completely painless.
  • No electricity goes into your body.
  • There is no chance of electrical shock.

Do I need an appointment for an EKG?

  • No appointment is necessary, however, you will require a laboratory requisition completed by your doctor ordering an EKG.

What information will the laboratory need from me?

  • Your height and weight (this is required for the cardiologist to interpret the tracing).
  • Your name, address, date of birth, and personal health number.

How long will it take to perform the EKG?

  • No more than 20 minutes and usually much less.

What will the laboratory ask me to do?

  • Undress ONLY to your waist (we require a bare chest to position the EKG sensors).
  • Your pant legs must be rolled up to above the knees. Women are requested to remove pantyhose to allow placement of the EKG sensors.
  • You can keep all jewellery on.
  • Lie flat on your back on the EKG table (bed).
  • RELAX!

What does an EKG tracing look like?


(Sample only)

What happens to my EKG tracing?

  • Your EKG tracing is read by a cardiologist (doctor who specializes in the heart).
  • The results of your EKG tracing will be returned to the doctor that ordered this test, usually within one week.
  • Any urgent requests can be done the same day.
  • Laboratory staff DO NOT give out EKG results.

How can I get an EKG?

  • Ask your doctor if it is necessary. Most patients over 40 should have an EKG every five years, or annually if you are considered high risk.