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Electrocardiogram (EKG, ECG): About Your Child's Test

Cross-section of the heart, showing electrical system.

What is it?

An electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG) is a test that checks for problems with the electrical activity of your child's heart. An EKG translates the heart's electrical activity into line tracings on paper.

Why is this test done?

Your child may need this test to check his or her heart's electrical activity. The test also can check the health of your child's heart.

How do you prepare for the test?

  • Tell your doctor about all the non-prescription and prescription medicines your child takes. Many medicines can change the results of this test.
  • On the day of the test, don't use creams, lotions, powders, or baby oil on your child's skin.
  • Bringing a toy, blanket, or doll might help your child feel more comfortable during the test.

How is the test done?

  • Your child may have to remove certain jewellery.
  • Your child may need to take off his or her top and may get a gown to wear.
  • Your child will lie on a bed or table. Parts of your child's arms, legs, and chest will be cleaned and may be shaved.
  • Small pads or patches (electrodes) will be attached to your child's skin on each arm and leg and on the chest. A special paste or pad may go between the electrode and the skin. The electrodes are hooked to a machine that traces heart activity onto a paper. No electricity passes through your child's body from the machine. There's no danger of getting an electrical shock.
  • During the test, your child will need to lie very still and breathe normally. Your child shouldn't talk during the test.
  • Staying with your child during the test may help him or her relax and be still.

How long does the test take?

The test usually takes 5 to 10 minutes.

What happens after the test?

Your child will probably be able to go home right away. Your child can go back to his or her usual activities right away.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if your child is having problems. Ask your doctor when you can expect to have your child's test results.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

Enter E360 in the search box to learn more about "Electrocardiogram (EKG, ECG): About Your Child's Test".

Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.