ECG: Meaning, full form, purpose and normal results


ECG is a test that monitors the electrical activity of the heart. Each heartbeat of the heart is caused by an electrical signal.

This impulse causes the heart muscles to contract and force blood to flow through the heart.

An ECG will let your doctor know if:

  • Your electrical impulse is normal/abnormal, fast, slow, or irregular.
  • The heart is larger than normal or it is working more than usual.
  • Whether the heart muscle has been damaged by a heart attack.

What is the purpose of ECG?

The electrocardiogram records a picture of your heart’s electrical activity. But this can only happen when you are being monitored.

However, some heart problems do come and go. In these cases, you may need more care.

Stress Test

Some heart problems only appear during exercise. During a stress test, you will have an ECG while exercising.

You are usually asked to run on a treadmill to perform this test.

Holter Monitor

The Holter monitor records the activity of your heart for 24 to 48 hours. During this, you are asked to keep a record of your condition to help the doctor identify the cause of your symptoms.

Electrodes are portable, battery-operated monitor that is attached to your chest.

Event Recorder

An event recorder may be needed to identify symptoms that are often not visible.

It’s similar to a Holter monitor, but it records your heart’s electrical activity at the time symptoms appear.

Some event recorders are automatically triggered when symptoms are detected. In other event recorders, you have to press a button when you feel the symptoms.


Avoid drinking cold water or exercising before your ECG. Drinking cold water can change the pattern of electricity.

Exercise can increase your heart rate and affect test results.

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During ECG

An electrocardiogram (ECG) is a quick, painless, and harmless test. You will have to lie down on a table during this test. Men may have to cut some of their chest hair.

Pads will be placed on your chest, legs, and arms. The pads are attached to the wires of the ECG machine.

When the machine records your heart activity, lie still for about 20 seconds without moving.

Do not talk during this test. There is no pain during this test. When this test is complete, the wires are removed.

Do not use any type of lotion on the day of the test. Because this can make it difficult for adhesive pads called electrodes to stick properly.

Wearing such clothes during the test in which the pad can be easily placed on your chest. Apart from this, you can also wear a hospital gown.

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What are the risks of ECG?

Some people may have a skin rash where the electrode is placed but they usually get better without treatment.

There may be a risk of a heart attack during a stress test, but it is not related to the ECG but to the exercise.

The ECG simply monitors the electrical activity of your heart. It does not emit electricity and is completely safe.

ECG Result and Normal Pattern

Your doctor examines the ECG record to understand the pattern of electrical activity. Electric activity shows up as waves moving up and down on the ECG paper.

Normal Result

If the doctor finds a normal pattern in the ECG, it means that your heartbeat and rhythm are in the normal range and no irregularity has been found in your heart’s electrical system and or no damage has been found.

There are many such diseases related to the heart, in which the ECG result shows normal.

Therefore, the ECG pattern is abnormal only in problems affecting the electrical signals.

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Abnormal Result

If the ECG result is abnormal, then the doctor can diagnose a disease or a past heart-related problem.

Sometimes the ECG report may come out abnormal due to some kind of fault in the equipment.

Not only this, the ECG pattern of athletes (people who do sports activities) can also come abnormal, it does not mean that they have any kind of heart-related problem.

Certain types of diseases can be diagnosed through ECG patterns and some other tests like –

  • Very fast or slow heartbeat
  • Irregular heartbeat or heart arrhythmia
  • Heart attack (stopping of heart due to sudden blockage in the vessels supplying blood to the heart)
  • History of heart attack in the past
  • An imbalance of minerals such as sodium and potassium in the blood
  • Having a drug reaction
  • Cardiomyopathy (thickening or enlargement of the walls of the heart due to various reasons)
  • Heart valve problems

The doctor may recommend ECG as well as some other tests to diagnose a disease. To remove any doubts regarding the ECG, meet the doctor and discuss it in detail with him, so that your heart health can be maintained.

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