The heart beats because of the flow of electricity within the heart. An electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG) is a simple test that measures and records the heart’s electrical activity. An EKG shows the details of your child’s heartbeat, including rhythm (steady or irregular) and rate (fast or slow). It also shows the timing of heartbeats as the chambers squeeze and relax with each heartbeat.
As a heart screening test, EKGs are one of the first tests we use to evaluate your child’s heart. The cardiologists at Pediatric Heart Specialists (PHS) perform EKGs in our offices during your child’s first appointment.
An EKG is a painless, noninvasive (doesn’t enter the body) test that lasts just a few minutes. For a pediatric EKG, we place small, sticky patches (patch electrodes) on your child’s chest, arms and legs. Using wires, we connect the electrodes to the EKG machine, which records the heart’s electrical activity. We evaluate the EKG results to look for signs of heart diseases, such as unusual heart rates or rhythms.
We may use one or more types of pediatric EKG to evaluate your child’s heart, based on symptoms and how frequently they happen. The types of pediatric EKG include:
EKGs show the patterns of electrical activity in your child’s heart. Electrical impulses travel through the heart muscle to signal the heart to beat. If the activity on an EKG varies from a normal pattern, it may be a sign of heart disease.
At PHS, our pediatric cardiologists use pediatric EKG tests to help diagnose many heart diseases in children, including:
When you come to PHS for your child’s heart care, our pediatric cardiologists usually do an EKG as part of our first evaluation. We use pediatric EKG to:
If your child is experiencing heart-related symptoms, a pediatric EKG test helps us find the cause. These symptoms may include:
A pediatric EKG is a quick, simple test that we do in our offices, so you won’t need to go elsewhere for the test procedure. Find out what to expect with the procedures for a Holter monitor and a cardiac event monitor.
Before the appointment, you can explain the EKG to your child and tell them that you’ll be with them the entire time. The test won’t hurt even though it might look scary.
Preparing your child for an EKG test includes these simple steps:
An EKG lasts about five to 10 minutes, including the time to set up the equipment. The equipment includes patch electrodes, lead wires and the EKG machine that records the electrical activity.
For the EKG procedure:
When the EKG finishes recording, we remove the wires and electrodes, which feels like pulling off a small bandage. Our pediatric cardiologists examine the EKG results to check for any problems with your child’s heart.
During the same visit, we discuss the EKG findings with you. We talk about the next steps, which may be doing more tests or beginning their treatment.
As a safe, painless, noninvasive test, an EKG has almost no risk. Sometimes, the adhesive in the patch electrodes can cause skin irritation or an allergic reaction. We offer special electrodes designed for sensitive skin, if your child needs them.