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Electrocardiogram

Pediatric Heart Care

Electrocardiogram

Video

Video; Pediatric Cardiology Electrocardiogram Test Performing an ECG at the Pediatric Cardiology Clinic

 

Electrocardiogram Information on Kids Health

For Parents

For Kids and Teens (video)

The American Family Children's Hospital pediatric cardiology specialists treat infants, children and adolescents with heart-related conditions. During the course of treatment, the cardiology staff may perform a routine, non-invasive procedure called an electrocardiogram, also known as an ECG or EKG.

Definition

An ECG is a test that records the electrical activity of the heart. This is used as a screening tool to determine if a heart problem may be present. The test is used to measure the rate and regularity of heartbeats as well as the size and position of the chambers, the presence of any damage to the heart, and the effects of drugs or devices used to regulate the heart (such as a pacemaker).
 
How the Test is Performed
 
An ECG is painless and will only take a few minutes to complete. Parents can be in the room with their child.
 
During the test, the child will be asked to lie down. Some younger children may not feel comfortable laying down and can be held in their parent's lap. To get the best tracing, the child will be asked to hold still for about 30 seconds. Electrodes (stickers) will be affixed to each arm and leg and a few to the chest. These electrodes will record the:
  • Rate and regularity of heartbeats
  • Size and position of the chambers
  • Effects of drugs or devices such as a pacemaker to regulate the heart 
The results are recorded on graph paper.

How to Prepare for the Test

There is little preparation needed for the test. Please do not apply lotion the day of the visit as the electrodes (stickers) may not stick to the chest. The child will be asked to change into a hospital gown and remove all jewelry.

How the Test Will Feel

An ECG is painless. When first applied, the disks may be cold and in rare circumstances, a localized rash or irritation may develop where the patches are placed. When the electrodes (stickers) are removed they may feel slightly uncomfortable, although they are less sticky than a band-aid.

Why the Test is Performed

An ECG is very useful in determining whether a person has heart disease. If a person has chest pain or palpitations, an ECG is helpful in determining if the heart is beating normally. If a person is on medications that may affect the heart or if the patient is on a pacemaker, an ECG can readily determine the immediate effects of changes in activity or medication levels.