The procedure for an electrocardiogram, or ECG, entails the placement of electrodes on different parts of the body for an evaluation of the heart's electrical and muscular activity. A doctor may order a ECG to detect or diagnose different heart problems, such as arrhythmia, breathing problems, chest pain and feeling fatigued, as noted by Healthline.
The basic procedure for an ECG involves placing at least 10 small plastic patches with gel on areas of the chest, arms and legs, as noted by eMedicineHealth. In most instances, six electrodes are used on the chest area and one electrode on each arm and leg.
Prior to the procedure, a patient needs to remove any clothing that covers the chest area. Once placed in the proper position on the different areas, these small patches or electrodes are attached to lead wires, which in turn are connected to an ECG machine. The patient rests on a table or bed for the test and must remain still so that accurate readings of the heart's activity are recorded or traced on a graph. After the ECG procedure, the electrodes are removed. The procedure is painless, and it can take up to 15 minutes to perform.
By reading the patient's ECG graph results, doctors can detect heart problems that include signs of a prior heart attack, an enlarged heart, artery obstruction and heartbeat irregularities, states Healthline. The ECG diagnostic procedure may also be useful to check heart function before and after certain medical procedures, such as cardiac catheterization, notes Johns Hopkins Medicine.