Electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG)

An electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG) is one of the simplest and fastest procedures used to evaluate the heart. They are particularly useful to diagnose a problem called an arrhythmia, which is an irregular heartbeat. The electrical information that is recorded provides a graphic representation of the heart's function.

The data is recorded to a paper printout, sometimes called a tracing. Each lead of the EKG looks at a specific part of the heart from different angles. When your child's doctor studies the tracing of the EKG, they look at the size, shape and length of the waveforms and how fast or slow the heart is beating. If the variations differ from a normal pattern, the physician may suspect the presence of a heart problem. 

An EKG may also be used during a physical examination to obtain a baseline tracing of the heart's function. This baseline tracing may be used later as a comparison with future EKGs to see if any changes have occurred.

Learn more about the heart's electrical system.

EKG Procedure

An EKG normally takes approximately five to 10 minutes to complete, including attaching and detaching electrodes. During an EKG your child will lie flat on a table or bed for the procedure. The EKG technician will need to have your child's chest uncovered to perform the test. Your child's privacy will be ensured by covering them with a sheet or gown and exposing only the necessary skin.

Electrodes will be attached to your child's chest and one electrode will be attached to each arm and leg. Lead wires will be attached to the skin electrodes. Once the leads are attached, the technician will key in identifying information such as your child's name and age into the machine's computer.

It is important that your child lie still and not talk during the procedure, so they don’t interfere with the tracing. Parents can be present in the room to reassure and encourage their child during the procedure.

At this point, it will take about a minute for the tracing to be completed. Once tracing is completed, the technician will disconnect the leads and remove the skin electrodes.


Some medical conditions that may cause changes in the EKG pattern and can signal a heart problem. These conditions include:

  • Chest trauma
  • Conduction disorders
  • Electrolyte disturbances
  • Enlarged heart
  • Ischemia
  • Pericarditis
  • Valve disease

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