Electrocardiogram (ECG)

A doctor may refer you for an electrocardiogram (ECG) for a number of heart conditions. The procedure is often done in the doctor's office or a hospital room. However, there are portable and wearable ECG devices that monitor for days or even weeks. ECG machines are common medical equipment standard in ambulances and operating rooms. Even some smart watches and other personal devices have ECG capabilities.

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What is an ECG?

An ECG is a noninvasive, painless method used to diagnose many common heart problems. It works by recording the electrical signals of your heart.

Doctors may refer people for an ECG to detect and assess several issues, such as:

  • Abnormal heart rhythm (arrhythmias)
  • Coronary artery disease
  • Heart rate
  • Inadequate blood and oxygen supply to the heart
  • Previous heart attack
  • Structural abnormalities of the heart
  • Effectiveness of heart disease treatments, such as a pacemaker

You may also be referred for an ECG if you have symptoms such as:

  • Chest pain
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Heart palpitations
  • Lightheadedness
  • Rapid pulse
  • Shortness of breath
  • Weakness

If you have symptoms that are sporadic, your doctor may recommend remote or continuous ECG monitoring, such as:

  • Holter monitor, a small, wearable device that records an ECG continuously for 24 to 48 hours.
  • Event monitor, a portable device that only records for a few minutes at specific times. It can be worn longer than a Holter monitor, typically 30 days.

Mayo Clinic Healthcare will work with you to determine if an ECG is appropriate to your needs.

Read more about ECG at MayoClinic.org