A pediatric electrocardiogram (ECG) is a test used to evaluate the electrical activity of a child’s heart. Often, this test is performed on a child at an in-office cardiology appointment, though it may be done in a separate ECG clinic in some cases. An ECG is performed to determine whether a child’s heart is functioning normally. For example, it may be used to reveal whether a child has an arrhythmia. The test is painless and usually takes only a few minutes to perform.
The heart is a muscle, and its rhythmic beats serve to pump blood through a person’s body. Electrical impulses stimulate the heart to contract and pump blood. A pediatric ECG is used to record this electrical activity and translate it onto paper. A doctor analyzes these translations to learn how the heart is functioning. He does this by reviewing the peaks and valleys that appear on the ECG report, which are usually referred to as waves.
There are many reasons a child may undergo a pediatric ECG. A doctor may want to check a child’s heart because he has such symptoms as chest pain, unexplained shortness of breath, heart beats that are too rapid, or irregular heart beats. Sometimes a doctor may also want to check on the electrical activity of a child’s heart because of inflammation that is surrounding it or because the child experiences dizziness or fainting spells. A doctor may also perform a pediatric ECG to evaluate the thickness of the heart walls.
Sometimes a doctor may also perform a pediatric ECG to determine how a medication or treatment is affecting a child’s heart. For example, a doctor may perform an ECG to learn whether a medication prescribed for treating a heart condition is working. He may also perform this test to determine whether a medication prescribed for another purpose is causing side effects that adversely affect a patient’s heart.
To perform a pediatric ECG, a technician usually asks a child to lie on his back on a table. He then attaches pads with adhesive on them to the patient’s chest. These pads are used to position the electrodes. Once they are in place, the ECG usually only takes a few minutes to perform. Usually, children are asked to lie still during the test and avoid talking. At some point, they may be asked to hold their breath as well.
Fortunately, a pediatric ECG does not cause a patient pain and is usually not uncomfortable. If a child does complain about this test, he may mention that gel used to attach the electrodes is cold. Some children may also complain about the necessity of lying still and in one place during the test.