Exercise Electrocardiogram (ECG) Testing for Children

What is an exercise ECG test for children?

Electrocardiography (ECG) is a simple, fast test to check the electrical activity and general function of your child's heart as blood moves through it. Abnormal ECG results may mean there's a problem with your child's heart.

An exercise ECG checks the electrical activity during exercise on a treadmill or stationary bike. This test is seldom done on young children. But it may be very useful in teens and young adults.

Why might my child need an exercise ECG?

Your child’s healthcare provider may want to do an exercise ECG if your child was born with or has symptoms of a heart problem. It may also be advised if your child has an irregular heart rhythm or changes in a resting ECG. The provider may want to do this test to evaluate a certain symptom that may get worse with exercise. The test can see how well certain treatments are working. It can also assess your child's fitness level. And it can give the likely outcome (prognosis) for a certain disease.

What are the risks of an exercise ECG for a child?

Most children have very low risk for problems with exercise ECG testing.

How do I get my child ready for an exercise ECG?

Have you child wear shoes and comfortable clothing so they'll be able to exercise during the test.

What happens during an exercise ECG for a child?

The test is done in a healthcare provider's office, hospital, or another place. The equipment used includes an ECG machine, electrodes, and wires. The wires connect the electrodes to the ECG machine. A blood pressure cuff  is also used to check your child's blood pressure during exercise. Your child will exercise on a treadmill or stationary bike.

Exercise ECG testing usually follows these steps:

  • Your child will have a baseline ECG and blood pressure readings before starting to exercise. 

  • They'll walk on the treadmill or pedal the bike. 

  • During the test, your child may need to exercise harder.

  • Their heart, blood pressure, and symptoms are watched closely. 

  • Your child will be asked to exercise to the best of their ability. 

  • After the exercise, your child's heart and blood pressure are checked for a short time, perhaps for 10 to 15 minutes.

The test will take about 1 hour, including check-in, preparation, and the test.

What happens after an exercise ECG for a child?

Your child may feel a little tired or sore after the test, particularly if they're not used to exercising. Otherwise, your child should feel normal after the test.

Depending on the results of the exercise ECG, your child’s healthcare provider may order more tests.

Next steps

Before you agree to the test or the procedure for your child make sure you know:

  • The name of the test or procedure

  • The reason your child is having the test or procedure

  • What results to expect and what they mean

  • The risks and benefits of the test or procedure

  • When and where your child is to have the test or procedure

  • Who will do the procedure and what that person’s qualifications are

  • What would happen if your child did not have the test or procedure

  • Any alternative tests or procedures to think about

  • When and how you will get the results

  • Who to call after the test or procedure if you have questions or your child has problems

  • How much you will have to pay for the test or procedure

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