An electrocardiogram, commonly known as an ECG, records how your heart is functioning by measuring its electrical activity through the placement of small sensors on the chest, arms, and lower legs. By measuring the rate and regularity of heartbeats, it can show an abnormal heartbeat, the presence of any damage, or enlargement of the heart muscle. An ECG can also show if your heart isn’t getting enough oxygen and the effects of drugs or regulating devices. The test is quick, safe, and painless.

When Test is Ordered?

Your doctor may suggest you have an ECG for a variety of reasons including to:         

  • do a routine annual check of your heart
  • monitor your heart rhythm
  • show electrical changes in your heart and if oxygen has been reduced
  • diagnose a heart attack or other conditions
  • monitor abnormal heart structure such as a thickened heart muscle

How is the Test Done?

An ECG is completed in one of Lifelabs Patient Service Centres and involves placing sensors to your chest arms and lower legs to monitor your heart for a brief period. When you arrive, the lab assistant will ask you a few health-related questions (height, weight, medications, symptoms, reason for the testing, if you have had this test performed before and whether you have a pacemaker) and ask you to:

  • Remove all your clothing from the waist up as we require a bare chest to position the chest sensors. A sheet will be provided so you can cover yourself.
  • Expose your lower legs below the knees. You will be asked to remove pantyhose or tights; however, you may keep your shoes and socks on.
  • Lay flat on your back on the ECG bed.

Once you are laying on the bed and relaxed, the lab assistant will:

  • Rub alcohol on a small area of your upper arms and lower legs and chest (around the heart area).
  • Place six skin sensors on your chest and one on each arm and leg.
  • Feel for rib spaces to ensure accurate chest sensor placement. Some placements may require lifting of the breast; this is done by using the back of the hand.
  • Ensure you are covered once the sensors are placed and cables attached to preserve your modesty.
  • Potentially place pillows under your legs or reapply one or more sensors to ensure an accurate reading.

How to Prepare for Test?

Very little preparation is needed to prepare for an ECG. On the day of the test, we ask that you:

  • Wear loose-fitting clothing so pant legs can be easily moved up
  • Avoid wearing pantyhose, tights or leggings
  • Do not use talcums, lotions, moisturizers or perfumes

Results – Interpretation of ECG readings is done by a physician and the report will be forwarded to your healthcare provider within 3-5 working days. It’s important for you to discuss your ECG results directly with your healthcare provider as they will recommend whether additional testing or care is required.