What is an Electrocardiogram?
An electrocardiogram (ECG) is a recording of the electrical activity of the heart.

An electrocardiogram gives you information about:

  1. Presence of ischaemic heart disease. This is most useful in patients who have had a previous heart attack or on-going chest pain. It is a good baseline test to have for future comparisons. It may be normal in heart disease patients.
  2. Structural heart disease like enlargement of heart chambers or thickening of heart muscles.
  3. Rhythm abnormalities of the heart whether fast or slow.


An electrocardiogram unit
How safe is an Electrocardiogram?
It is a non-invasive and totally harmless procedure.

Why should I have an Electrocardiogram?
To detect the presence of ischaemic heart disease, structural heart disease or any rhythm abnormalities of the heart.

Who should have an Electrocardiogram?
Generally, this test is recommended for certain individuals with:

  1. Chest pains
  2. Hypertension
  3. Suspected valvular diseases, e.g., Cardiac murmurs
  4. Suspected congenital heart diseases
  5. Palpitations
  6. Loss of consciousness
  7. Shortness of breath

How is an Electrocardiogram done?
12-ECG electrodes(sticky patches) are placed in standard positions over the chest and both upper and lower limbs. Within seconds, a full tracing would be generated from the machine.

How can I prepare for an Electrocardiogram?
For male persons with chest hairs, we may need to shave at small spots in order to obtain good contact between the leads and skin. This would ensure the recording of a good and clear ECG tracing.


A patient undergoing an ECG test

How long does an Electrocardiogram take?
The generation of an electrocardiogram by the machine takes less than one minute.

What happens after the Electrocardiogram?
At the end of your test, the findings will be discussed with your physician.

What does it mean if my Electrocardiogram is abnormal?
The meaning and implications of the abnormal findings will be discussed in detail with your physician. It may be a finding which requires no further clarification or one which may entail further tests to elucidate its cause or to confirm a suspected condition.

Does a negative Electrocardiogram mean that I am free from any heart disease?
Resting electrocardiogram may not be a very sensitive investigation in certain heart conditions e.g. Ischaemic heart disease especially if there had been no previous heart attack. A normal ECG makes severe or serious heart conditions less likely but does not totally exclude any heart disease. The ECG provides information in addition to that from obtained from the clinical history, physical examination and other tests. This will assist your physician in making clinical diagnoses and decisions pertaining to your health.

Disclaimer: This is only general information. A doctor should be contacted if you need any medical advice or if medical decisions need to be made.