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Electrocardiogram (ECG) Test

An electrocardiogram, more commonly known as an ECG, is a quick and simple test which looks at the electrical activity of the heart. An ECG is used as a baseline test to look for evidence of cardiac damage, cardiac enlargement and/or a rhythm disturbance.

For an ECG, you will be asked to remove the clothing from the upper half of your body to allow the cardiac physiologist access to your chest. Access to the ankles is also required to produce an accurate ECG trace, and therefore it will be necessary to remove boots and socks/tights. You will be offered a gown to wear.

The test is performed with you lying on a couch with your upper body positioned slightly upwards. Four small sticky sensors called electrodes are placed on your ankles and wrists and six more are placed in very specific places on your chest. Leads are attached to the ten electrodes which produces twelve ECG signals representing different surfaces of the heart.

You will be asked to keep still and breathe normally and, once the signal has produced a clear trace, the physiologist will record a 10-second snapshot of your heart’s activity. On some occasions, a longer recording called a rhythm strip may be taken which is useful in patients with irregular heart rhythms or if a longer recording is required for measurements. You may also be asked to take a deep breath in and hold it briefly during the recording to see if part of the signal changes.

After the recording has finished, the leads are disconnected, the electrodes are removed and any gel residue is wiped clean. You are then free to dress, unless you are due for other cardiac tests in the same room.

Although the recording is only a few seconds in length, it takes a few minutes to set up and finish the test. The whole process should be completed in 10 - 15 minutes with the ECG recording available immediately for the cardiologist to review.

There is no special preparation for an ECG, however the use of body moisturisers does prevent the electrodes sticking and therefore please avoid using moisturisers on the day of your appointment.

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