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Definition of Electrocardiogram

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Electrocardiogram: A recording of the electrical activity of the heart. Abbreviated ECG and EKG. An ECG is a simple, noninvasive procedure. Electrodes are placed on the skin of the chest and connected in a specific order to a machine that, when turned on, measures electrical activity all over the heart. Output usually appears on a long scroll of paper that displays a printed graph of activity on a computer screen. The initial diagnosis of heart attack is usually made through observation of a combination of clinical symptoms and characteristic ECG changes. An ECG can detect areas of muscle deprived of oxygen and/or dead tissue in the heart. If a medication is known to sometimes adversely affect heart function, a baseline ECG may be ordered before the patient starts taking the medicine, and follow-up testing may occur at regular intervals to look for any changes.

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Reviewed on 12/4/2018

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