Echocardiograms vs. EKGs/ECGs

EKG/ECGs & Echocardiograms

What Are Electrocardiograms and Echocardiograms?

Two of the most common tests used to assess the condition of the heart are the electrocardiogram and the echocardiogram. The two procedures are different in their goals, but the similar-sounding names can lead to confusion. Below is an explanation of how each test is conducted and the kind of information it provides, along with the main differences between an EKG and an echocardiogram.

Electrocardiogram

An electrocardiogram, often referred to as an EKG or ECG, records the electrical signals in your heart. It is used to detect heart problems and/or to monitor the heart’s conditions in various situations. The output from an EKG, which is immediately available for analysis, is a series of repeating peaks and valleys on a monitor or strip of paper that a doctor can review to understand how your heart is beating. Electrocardiograms are noninvasive and painless.

Is There a Difference Between an EKG and an ECG?

EKG and ECG are two abbreviations for the same medical test – an electrocardiogram. There is no difference between the two.

Echocardiogram

An echocardiogram is sometimes simply referred to as an “echo.” The images produced by this test let your doctor see how your heart is beating and pumping blood. The results show the size of each of the heart’s four chambers as well as how the left ventricle, which is the heart’s main pumping chamber, is functioning. If there is damage or an abnormality, the echo reveals it. Like an EKG, an echocardiogram is noninvasive and painless.

What Is the Difference Between an Electrocardiogram and an Echocardiogram?

Physicians use both echocardiograms (or echos) and EKGs to assess heart health, but they utilize them differently. An EKG focuses on the heart’s electrical activity, as a measure of how the organ is functioning. Echocardiography is a form of ultrasound that provides a detailed picture of the heart’s structure. Your doctor might order an EKG if you are experiencing chest pains, rapid heartbeats, or exercise-induced fatigue. An echocardiogram is the better procedure for diagnosing specific medical conditions or evaluating the extent of heart disease.

EKGs and echocardiograms are not mutually exclusive. If an EKG returns an abnormal reading, your physician might follow up with an echocardiogram to better determine the nature of the issue behind the heart’s unusual activity.

Learn More About Echocardiograms and EKGs From Baptist Health

Electrocardiograms and echocardiograms are performed for a variety of reasons and in a variety of situations. The fact that your doctor orders an EKG or echo does not necessarily mean there is anything wrong with your heart. In many cases, the test confirms that your heart looks good and is operating as it should. However, if there is a problem, these tests can help detect the issue so your doctor can develop an effective treatment plan.

Learn more about imaging and diagnostics at Baptist Health. To schedule an appointment, contact your Baptist Health physician’s office or a Baptist Health imaging location near you.

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