Visit our foundation to give a gift.
View Locations Near Me
Main Campus – Hartford
Connecticut Children’s – Waterbury
Urgent Care – Farmington
Specialty Care Center – Danbury
Connecticut Children’s Surgery Center at Farmington
Specialty Care Center – Fairfield
Search All Locations
Find a doctor
Find A Doctor
Request an Appointment
Amenities and Services
Who’s Who on Care Team
Getting Ready for Surgery
What to Expect—Picture Stories
Pay a Bill
Understanding the Different Fees
Pricing Transparency and Estimates
Raytheon Technologies Family Resource Center
Family Advisory Council
Legal Advocacy: Benefits, Education, Housing
Electronic Health Records
Share Your Story
Pay a Bill
Login to MyChart
Clinical Support Services Referrals
About the Network
Join the Network
Graduate Medical Education
Continuing Medical Education
MOC/Practice Quality Improvement
Educating Practices in the Community (EPIC)
Learning & Performance
Meet our Physician Relations Team
Request Medical Records
Join our Referring Provider Advisory Board
View our Physician Callback Standards
Read & Subscribe to Medical News
Register for Email Updates
Update Your Practice Information
Refer a Patient
Find and Print Health Info
Health Information For Parents
An electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) measures the heart’s electrical activity. This can help doctors tell how the heart is working and identify any problems.
The ECG can help show the rate and regularity of heartbeats, the size and position of the heart’s chambers, and whether there is any damage.
There is nothing painful about getting an ECG. The patient is asked to lie down, and small metal tabs (called electrodes) are fixed to the skin with sticky papers. These electrodes are placed in a standard pattern on the shoulders, the chest, the wrists, and the ankles.
After the electrodes are in place, the person is asked to hold still and, perhaps, to hold his or her breath briefly while the heartbeats are recorded for a short period. The patient also might be asked to get up and exercise for a while.
The information is interpreted by a machine and drawn as a graph. The graph shows multiple waves, which reflect the activity of the heart. The height, length, and frequency of the waves are read in the following way:
A person’s heartbeat should be consistent and even. ECGs look for abnormally slow and fast heart rates, abnormal rhythm patterns, conduction blocks (short-circuits of the heart’s electrical impulses that cause rhythm inconsistencies between the upper and lower chambers) — and four types of heart damage:
Computerized ECGs can be used with other tests to get a multimedia account of the heart. These other tests include echocardiograms (which are basically “ultrasound” tests that bounce sound off the heart and use the echoes to make an image) and thallium scans (which are kind of like X-rays and use a radioactive tracer, injected into the bloodstream, to help draw a picture of the heart).
In the past, the ECG was recorded on a machine that drew on long strips of paper, with records from each electrode presented in a standard sequence. Now the ECG tracings are stored as computer files that can be called up and printed.
Results of the ECG are available immediately. In fact, the ECG machine’s computer even provides an instant interpretation of the findings as it makes the report. However, the doctor also might ask an expert, usually a cardiologist, to help analyze and interpret the ECG. Some of the ECG results may be subtle, requiring an expert eye to detect them.
Are you heart smart? Learn about this amazing muscle, including how to care for kids with heart conditions.
The heart and circulatory system are our body’s lifeline, delivering blood to the body’s tissues. Brush up on your ticker with this body basics article.
Heart murmurs are very common, and most are no cause for concern and won’t affect a child’s health.
Heart defects happen when there’s a problem with a baby’s heart development during pregnancy. Most heart defects can be treated during infancy.
A guide to medical terms about the heart and circulatory system. In an easy A-Z format, find definitions on heart defects, heart conditions, treatments, and more.
An arrhythmia is an abnormal heartbeat usually caused by an electrical “short circuit” in the heart. Many are minor and not a health threat, but some can indicate a more serious problem.
Getting an EKG doesn’t hurt and it gives doctors important info about how your heart is beating. Watch what happens in this video for kids.
This video shows what it’s like to have an electrocardiogram (EKG for short).
Everyone’s heart makes sounds, but some people have hearts that make more noise than others. Usually, however, these heart murmurs don’t mean anything is wrong. Find out more about these mysterious murmurs.
Ventricular septal defect, or VSD, is a heart condition that a few teens can have. Find out what it is, how it happens, and what doctors do to correct it.
The heart and circulatory system (also called the cardiovascular system) make up the network that delivers blood to the body’s tissues.
Doctors use cardiac catheterization to gather information about the heart and blood vessels as well as treat certain heart conditions. Find out what’s involved.
This minimally invasive procedure helps doctors performÂ diagnostic tests on the heart and even treat some heart conditions.
Arrhythmias are abnormal heartbeats usually caused by an electrical “short circuit” in the heart. Many are minor and not a significant health threat, but others can indicate a more serious problem.
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
© 1995-2020 KidsHealth®. All rights reserved.
Images provided by The Nemours Foundation, iStock, Getty Images, Veer, Shutterstock, and Clipart.com.