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An electrocardiogram, or EKG, is a procedure designed to measure the heart's electrical output through a number of electrode leads. The placement of those leads stems from the requirements of a full examination of the heart's function.
During an EKG, a technician places electrode leads on the chest, legs and arms, according to the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. These leads carry information on the heart's electrical output to an EKG machine, which records this information for interpretation and diagnosis.
Reason for Placement
EKG leads record their information as differences in the output between matched positive and negative electrodes, notes the Merck Manuals Online Medical Library. The specific placement of these electrodes allows doctors to acquire accurate vertical and horizontal images of the heart.
The MMOML lists heart problems detected by accurate lead placement that include heartbeat irregularities (arrhythmias) and enlargements of the upper heart (atria) and lower heart (ventricles).
The Cardiology Channel cites other ailments detectable by an accurate EKG, including heart attack, congestive heart failure and inflammation of the pericardium (heart sac).
The MMOML notes that doctors may also use a lead placed in the esophagus, which the patient swallows temporarily to gain more accurate readings of the atria.