What's it like: To get an electrocardiogram, or EKG

You might get an EKG if you're experiencing a fluttering feeling in your heart, chest pain or a family history of irregular heartbeat. You might also get an EKG if you have a family history of sudden death at an early age because of heart problems.
by Jaclyn Cosgrove Published: March 31, 2013

For people with chest pain, an EKG can sometimes determine whether a person has had a heart attack or help determine a person's risk of having a heart attack.

Does it hurt?

It shouldn't. There aren't needles involved, so the only thing you'll feel that could hurt is when the medical staff pulls off the electrodes.

What are the risk factors?

There isn't generally a risk of being electrocuted during an EKG. The electrodes are not emitting electricity but rather recording your heart's electrical activity.

There's a rare chance that you might be allergic to the tape on the electrodes. If it does develop, the rash shouldn't last a long period of time and should go away without treatment.

What's the follow-up?

What happens after the EKG will depend on what's found.

If your doctor is concerned about increased thickness of your heart muscle, he or she might order an echocardiogram, which uses sound waves to create a moving picture of the heart. Your doctor might also order an echocardiogram if there's concern about congestive heart failure.

If your doctor is concerned you are at risk for a heart attack, he or she might recommend you undergo a stress test or an angiogram of your heart. An angiogram is a special X-ray test that shows the insides of your coronary arteries.

As with any medical care, you should talk openly with your doctor and ask questions about any concerns you might have.


Dr. Rakesh Shrivastava,

a cardiologist at Midwest Regional Medical

Center; National Institutes

of Health; The Mayo Clinic.

by Jaclyn Cosgrove
Medical and Health Reporter
Jaclyn Cosgrove writes about health, public policy and medicine in Oklahoma, among other topics. She is an Oklahoma State University graduate. Jaclyn grew up in the southeast region of the state and enjoys writing about rural Oklahoma. She is...
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