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Pediatric Electrocardiogram (EKG/ECG)

An electrocardiogram (EKG/ECG) is a painless screening test that measures the heart’s electrical activity. At Children's Health℠, only doctors who are specially trained in heart rhythm issues (known as electrophysiologists) evaluate EKGs.

Each year, families across Texas rely on our experienced team to evaluate the results of their child's EKG. We read more than 15,000 EKGs from children of all ages each year.

What is a Pediatric Electrocardiogram (EKG)?

An EKG measures the strength and rate of your child's heartbeat. This test also gives us information about the size of their heart chambers and how well electrical impulses get through the heart.

For an EKG, we put electrodes – special adhesive patches – on your child’s chest, arms and legs. The test takes about 10 minutes, and you can stay with your child during the entire screening.

An EKG can tell us:

  • Heart rate (how fast the heart is beating)
  • Heart rhythm (whether the heartbeat is steady or irregular)
  • Details about the heart’s structure, such as the size of the heart chambers
  • Blood and oxygen supply to the heart muscle

What are the benefits of a Pediatric Electrocardiogram (EKG)?

An EKG can help detect heart problems, such as arrhythmia, abnormal electrical activity or a high risk of future heart rhythm problems. We also use EKGs to:

  • Get a baseline measure of your child’s heartbeat
  • Test the effect of heart medications
  • Check the heart before and after surgery

What are the side effects of a Pediatric Electrocardiogram (EKG)?

An EKG is a very safe test with no known side effects.

What are the risks of a Pediatric Electrocardiogram (EKG)?

There are no risks to an EKG. During the test, we put small plastic stickers (called electrodes) on your child’s chest, arms and legs. It’s possible their skin might be slightly irritated after we remove the stickers. If your child has sensitive skin, we can provide special stickers.

What to expect with a Pediatric Electrocardiogram (EKG)

What to expect before a Pediatric Electrocardiogram (EKG)

Your child may eat and drink as usual. You should not use any cream, lotion, powder or baby oil on your child’s body on the day of the test because these substances could interfere with the skin-electrode connection.

What to expect during a Pediatric Electrocardiogram (EKG)

The EKG is a short and painless test. We ask your child to lie still and flat on a bed. Then we attach the electrodes to your child’s body, and wires connect the electrodes to the EKG machine. The EKG detects and records the electrical signals coming from your child’s heart.

What to expect after a Pediatric Electrocardiogram (EKG)

We disconnect the wires and remove the stickers from your child’s body. Our team will look at the results immediately and tell you what the next steps are. If the EKG reveals a problem with your child’s heart, another EKG or other diagnostic tests may be necessary. Any treatment will depend on what is causing your child’s heart issue.

What questions should I ask my provider about Pediatric Electrocardiogram (EKG)?

  • How long does an EKG take?
  • What kind of information can you get from the EKG?
  • How does it help determine my child's condition?

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Why would a child need an EKG?

    Your child may need an EKG if their pediatrician or one of our pediatric cardiologists suspects a problem with their heart, such as:

    • Congenital heart diseases, which are problems with the heart’s structure, such as heart valves, blood vessels or heart chambers
    • Conduction disorders, which are problems with the heart’s electrical system
    • Ischemia, which is low blood flow to the heart muscle due to a blockage in a heart blood vessel
    • Infection, such as myocarditis or pericarditis
  • How long do EKG results take to get back?

    We’re able to share the test results with you immediately after your child’s EKG. The test itself usually takes less than 10 minutes.