Electrocardiograms

Recording the electrical activity of the heart.

Electrocardiography (ECG or EKG) is the recording of the electrical activity of the heart. Traditionally this is in the form of a transthoracic (across the thorax or chest) interpretation of the electrical activity of the heart over a period of time, as detected by electrodes attached to the surface of the skin and recorded or displayed by a device external to the body. The recording produced by this noninvasive procedure is termed an electrocardiogram (also ECG or EKG). It is possible to record ECGs invasively using an implantable loop recorder.

An ECG is used to measure the heart’s electrical conduction system. It picks up electrical impulses generated by the polarization and depolarization of cardiac tissue and translates into a waveform. The waveform is then used to measure the rate and regularity of heartbeats, as well as the size and position of the chambers, the presence of any damage to the heart, and the effects of drugs or devices used to regulate the heart, such as a pacemaker.

Most ECGs are performed for diagnostic or research purposes on human hearts, but may also be performed on animals, usually for diagnosis of heart abnormalities or research.