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What is an electrocardiogram?

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Quick Answer

An electrocardiogram is a type of diagnostic test that is used to determine the presence of problems with the heart's electrical activity, according to WebMD. The test is usually ordered to find the cause of specific symptoms which may be related to a heart condition.

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What is an electrocardiogram?
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Full Answer

When a patient experiences chest pressure or pain of unknown origins, an EKG is normally ordered, notes WebMD. This pain or pressure is sometimes the result of a heart attack, angina or pericarditis, which is the inflammation of the sac that surrounds the heart. The test may also be ordered to determine the cause of heart palpitations, fainting, dizziness and shortness of breath, all of which are symptoms of heart disease.

Another reason for an EKG is to determine if the chambers of the heart are abnormally thick, reports WebMD. In addition, an EKG can be used as a tool for monitoring the effectiveness of medications and determine if the medicines are causing any negative side effects on the heart's functionality or to see how effective a pacemaker or other implantable device is on the heart's rhythm.

An EKG can also be used to gauge heart health, states WebMD. Sometimes a doctor orders the test when a patient has specific conditions or diseases such as high cholesterol, diabetes or high blood pressure or if the person smokes or has a history of early-onset heart disease.

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