What is an ECG test?

An electrocardiogram (ECG) test measures the electrical activity of the heart to show whether it is working normally or not.  It records the heart’s rhythm and activity on a screen, allowing the doctor to interpret the results to see if there is any abnormal activity. 

Doctors use this test to detect abnormal heart rhythms, diagnose poor blood flow to the heart muscle (ischemia) and to investigate the cause of chest pains.

What happens during an ECG test?

An ECG test usually takes just a few minutes.  Firstly, a technician attaches electrodes (small sticky patches) to the arms, legs and chest. These electrodes are connected to a machine that records the electrical signals of each heartbeat. While the patient lies flat, the computer creates a picture of the electrical impulses travelling through the heart. This is called a "resting" ECG.