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Electrocardiograms (ECG)

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How is the test performed?

Sensors are attached to your legs, arms and chest area for 5-15 minutes in a LifeLabs Patient Service Centre.

How much does it cost?

ECGs are covered through provincial health programs.

When will I get results?

Results are available healthcare providers within 3-5 days.

An electrocardiogram, commonly known as an ECG or EKG, records how your heart is functioning by measuring its electrical activity through the placement of small sensors on the chest, arms and lower legs. By measuring the rate and regularity of heartbeats, it can show an abnormal heartbeat, the presence of any damage or enlargement of the heart muscle. An ECG can also show if your heart isn’t getting enough oxygen and the effects of drugs or regulating devices. The test is quick, safe and painless.

Your doctor may suggest you have an ECG for a variety of reasons including to:         

  • do a routine annual check of your heart
  • monitor your heart rhythm
  • show electrical changes in your heart and if oxygen has been reduced
  • diagnose a heart attack or other conditions
  • monitor abnormal heart structure such as a thickened heart muscle

An ECG is completed in one of our Patient Service Centres and involves placing sensors to your chest arms and lower legs to monitor your heart for a brief period. When you arrive, the lab assistant will ask you a few health-related questions (height, weight, medications, symptoms, reason for the testing, if you have had this test performed before and whether you have a pacemaker) and ask you to:

  • Remove all your clothing from the waist up as we require a bare chest to position the chest sensors. A sheet will be provided so you can cover yourself.
  • Expose your lower legs below the knees. You will be asked to remove pantyhose or tights; however you may keep your shoes and socks on.
  • Lay flat on your back on the ECG bed.

Once you are laying on the bed and relaxed, the lab assistant will:

  • Rub alcohol on a small area of your upper arms and lower legs and chest (around the heart area).
  • Place six skin sensors on your chest and one on each arm and leg.
  • Feel for rib spaces to ensure accurate chest sensor placement. Some placements may require lifting of the breast; this is done by using the back of the hand.
  • Ensure you are covered once the sensors are placed and cables attached to preserve your modesty.
  • Potentially place pillows under your legs or reapply one or more sensors to ensure an accurate reading.

You should be finished the ECG within 5 – 15 minutes.

Very little preparation is needed to prepare for an ECG. On the day of the test we ask that you:

  • Wear loose fitting clothing so pant legs can be easily move up
  • Avoid wearing pantyhose, tights or leggings
  • Do not use talcums, lotions, moisturizers or perfumes

Interpretation of ECG readings is done by a physician and the report will be forwarded to your healthcare provider within 3-5 working days. It’s important for you to discuss your ECG results directly with your healthcare provider as they will recommend whether additional testing or care is required.

ECGs are one of two types of cardiac monitoring that we offer either at one of our Patient Service Centres, or via our mobile lab services for non-acute hospitals, long-term care facilities and retirement residences (select cities).

LifeLabs provides ECGs to patients who are stable and not clinically suspected of suffering acute myocardial infarction or a life threatening cardiac event.

An ECG with LifeLabs may be ordered using the standard provincial laboratory requisitions.

A ‘stat’ or urgent ECG service is not available. Patients clinically suspected of a serious cardiac event should be directed to a facility equipped to undertake intervention when this is required, not to a LifeLabs Patient Service Centre. For the same reason, biochemical markers of myocardial injury are not available on an urgent basis.

Following the completion of an ECG, the tracings are transmitted to interpreting specialists for analysis and reporting. The interpretations are returned with a copy of the tracing to the requesting physician. Test results usually take 3-5 days

We have a wealth of medical experts available to support you in interpreting test results.
Consults with our experts are available upon request. Request medical consultation

An ECG may be scheduled directly by the patient at any of our Patient Service Centres offering this service. They must have a requisition form completed by a physician or healthcare provider. Appointments are recommended to reduce waiting times and ensure availability.

We also offer mobile lab services for non-acute hospitals, long-term care facilities and retirement residences. These must be booked in advance by the organization requiring the service.