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How Long Does An EKG Take (And Why)?

Exact Answer: 20 minutes to 2 hours

EKG is also known as ECG. The word EKG stands for electrocardiogram. This is basically a machine that graphically represents the activity of the heart.

This is a common test that is used to detect if the activity of the heart is normal or not. It is also useful in detecting any disorder related to the functioning of the heart. This is a painless test.

This test is usually performed by a doctor or a trained professional in a hospital or ambulance. Nowadays some devices such as smartwatches have this feature inbuilt that tests the activity of the heart.

How Long Does An EKG Take?

An EKG is very useful in determining various abnormalities in the heart such as heart attack, heart failure etc. This is a very good and noninvasive way to determine or detect the heart rhythm. A normal EKG usually takes around 20 minutes to get completed. It takes only 5-10 minutes for a health professional to read the electrical activity of the heart through an EKG.

The following steps take place while placing an electrocardiogram:-

  1. Positioning the patient for electrocardiograming.
  2. Try to aquire relevant images of the heart.
  3. Detecting abnormalities in the heart rhythm.

Images are taken basically from three areas are from the front of the chest, the left side of the chest wall, and over the ribs. In this procedure around 12 electrodes also called sensors are attached to the chest and limbs. They detect the electrical signals produced by the heart and the monitor represents the signals in the graphical form.

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If observed closely, the lines in the graphical representation forms different complexes. These complexes are respectively called as P wave, QRS complex and the T wave. These complexes show the activity of different parts of the hear such as atria and ventricles. The following table shows the normal timings of each of the three complexes in a normal EKG-

P wave0.12 seconds
QRS complex0.10 seconds
T wave0.10-0.25 seconds

Why Does It Take This Long To Do An EKG?

A normal EKG may take anywhere around 20 minutes to get completed. Whereas if the EKG is stress EKG, it may take a little more time (around 20 minutes). It also depends on the type of EKG performed.

There are generally three types of EKG. These are-

  1. Resting EKG- This is done when the body is in resting position.
  2. Ambulatory EKG- This EKG is conducted for 24 hours. The device used during this EKG is called ad Holten’s monitor.
  3. Cardiac stress EKG- This is done during excersise. It takes 20 minutes extra than the normal EKG.

The EKG monitoring takes place by two methods. These include a Holter monitor which is used to record EKG for up to 24-48 hours. This is a small monitor for continuous monitoring. Another type of monitor is the event monitor. This is used to measure for only a few minutes at a certain time.


EKG also called an electrocardiogram was developed by Willem Einthoven. This is a painless test that is used to determine the activity of the heart. This is a very safe method.

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Even though it is related to electricity, but this does not give electric shocks at all. This is because the electrodes are not carrying any electric current. They rather detect the electrical impulses from the brain.

An EKG is used to detect things such as heart rate, heart rhythm, heart attack, inadequate supply of oxygen to the heart, and other structural abnormalities that may be present. Even though heart rate can be measured by checking one’s pulses but an EKG gives an appropriate reading.

An EKG is also suggested when such symptoms are seen such as dizziness, chest pain, rapid heartbeat, breathlessness is experienced as these may be some symptoms for some serious diseases in future. This is also required before any surgery.

In the human body, the nerve cells communicate through the entire body through electrical and chemical signals. These signals travel across the muscles of the heart in the form of electrical impulses. The work of EKG is to detect, measure and plot these signals in graphical form.


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