An electrocardiogram or EKG is a heart test that makes a recording of the electrical activity of your heart. This electrical activity helps set your heart’s rate and rhythm. It can help doctors see if you have heart muscle damage or electrical problems in the heart.\nWhy is an Electrocardiogram Performed?\nThe test is used to measure:\n\nAny damage to the heart\nHow fast your heart is beating and whether it is beating normally\nThe size and position of your heart chambers\nThe effects of drugs or devices used to control the heart such as a pacemaker\n\nIt is usually the first test done to determine if a person has heart disease. Your doctor may order this test if:\n\nYou have chest pain or palpitations\nYou are scheduled for surgery\nYou have had heart problems in the past\nYou have a family history of heart disease\n\nHow to prepare for an EKG\nMake sure your doctor knows about any medications you are taking, as some can interfere with the test results.\nThe day of your test, do not put any lotions, oils, or powders on your chest. You will be asked to remove any clothing above the waist and given a hospital gown to wear. Some male patients may need to have small areas of their chest shaved because hair on the chest will not allow the electrodes to stick to the skin\nHow is an electrocardiogram performed?\n\nDuring the test, you will lie down then several sticky patches called electrodes will be placed on your arms, chest, and legs to check the heart rate, rhythm, and electrical activity of your heart\nThe electrodes will be connected to a machine that will record the electrical activity of your heart\nYou will be asked to relax, lie still and breathe normally while the electrodes record information onto a moving strip of paper\nThe test is painless, no electricity is sent through the body\nThe test only takes a few minutes\n\nAfter the Electrocardiogram\nAfter your EKG, you may go on with your usual activities. Call your doctor’s office two to three working days after your test and your doctor will go over your test results with you. Visit UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute’s treatment page for more information.